Introducing the "castells"

The "castells" are one of the most genuine performances of the catalan folklore, specially in the Tarragona area.

The origen of the "castells" is a mixture of legend and history. In Roman times, fishermen and peasants who arrived late to the rampart city which had closed its doors, had to form a human castle in order to enter the city.

On the other hand, history says that "castells" are an evolution of the "balls de valencians" (valencians dances), which finished with a human castle.

But the "castells" as we know now, have their development in Valls town in the midle of the XIX century.

In the beginning there were no "castells" groups. Every time there were a "festa major" in any town, every castel-man went to that town and with the people of the village they raised "castells" together.

In the XX century, corporativism entered inside "castells" too and then different groups called "colles" began to appear, whose main difference is in the color of the shirt.

The uniform of any castel-man is: white trousers, their own color shirt, black sash and a red scarf with white dots which they wear on their head.

The catalan poet Joan Maragall descripts castells as: "strength, value, balance and common sence" and it is true that all of these qualities are needed to form a human castle.

To form a Castell, first of all, we need a wide base called "pinya" where the ones that support the main weight are situated. They constitude the first tiar.

On top of them, we put the "segons", the "terços", the "quarts", etc., until we arrive at the top of the castle formed by the "acotxador" and the "enxaneta".

The final little-boy is the one who has to wave with his hand before climbing-down the other side of the castle.

Different names are given to different kind of castells. This depends on the number of tiars and the number of men in each tiar.

Before completing this breaf explanation it should be borne in mind that the castell is not complete until the little boy has waved from the top of the castell.

The tipical musical accompaniment to a castle is the "grallers" who begin to play at the beginning of the castell and the music changes when the little boy waves from the top of the castell.

During a "castell" performance people remain in silence and they only aplaude after the "castell" is crowned.

A good castle is only possible whith the welling part of everybody present.

Text by Josep Maria Sabaté i Bosch.

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