For other uses, see Castell (disambiguation).

A castell (Catalan pronunciation: [kəsˈteʎ]) is a human tower built traditionally in festivals at many locations within Catalonia. At these festivals, several colles castelleres (groups who construct towers) often succeed in building and dismantling a tower's structure. On November 16, 2010, castells were declared by UNESCO to be amongst the Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity.[1]


The tradition of building castells originated in the Ball dels Valencians in Valls,[2] near the city of Tarragona, first documented in 1712.[3] Over the course of the 18th century, they spread to other towns and cities in the area, including Vilafranca del Penedès and Tarragona, though it wasn't until the last 50 years that the practice of building castells began to spread to the rest of Catalonia.[2]

While in Catalonia, the Ball dels Valencians began to focus more on the acrobatic nature of building ever taller human towers; their more religious and allegorical origins remain in a similar tradition, the muixeranga, which is performed in the Valencian city of Algemesí.

In 2015 the Coordinadora de Colles Castelleres de Catalunya hosted 99 groups, including Castellers de les Gavarres, Castellers de Vilafranca, Jove de Barcelona and Minyons de Terrassa who were able to construct the best human tower to date, the "4 de 10" (10 levels of people with four in each level).

The Castell

In Catalan, the word castell means castle.

A castell is considered a success when assembly and disassembly can be done in complete succession. The assembly is complete once all castellers have climbed into their designated places, and the enxaneta climbs into place at the top and raises one hand with four fingers erect, in a gesture said to symbolize the stripes of the Catalan flag. The enxaneta then climbs down the other side of the castell, after which the remaining levels of castellers descend in highest-to-lowest order until all have reached safety.

Aside from the people who climb to form the upper parts of the tower, others are needed to form the pinya, or bottom base of the castell, to sustain its weight. Members of the pinya (most often men)[4] also act as a 'safety net' if the tower structure collapses, cushioning the fall of people from the upper levels. It is not uncommon—when not in competitions—for other colles to assist in the pinya when a small colla is attempting a specially demanding structure in terms of people needed.

The castell is built in two phases. First, the pinya—the base of the tower—is formed. People forming higher levels of the tower move to a position from which they can easily get to their place in the tower. This is done slowly and carefully,[5] and as subsequent base levels are completed the castellers in the pinya determine if their base is solid enough for construction to continue. Then, when the signal to proceed is given, bands begin to play the traditional Toc de Castells music as a hush comes over spectators of the event. The upper layers of the tower are built as quickly as possible in order to put minimal strain on the lower castellers, who bear most of the weight of the castell. The disassembly of the castell, done amidst the cheering of the crowd, is often the most treacherous stage of the event.

A 'rising' castell consists of successive layers added from the bottom by lifting the castell into the air, stage by stage, and is regarded as taking great deal of practice, skill and strength.


Typically castellers wear white trousers, a black sash (faixa), a bandana (mocador) and a shirt in a color characteristic to a given colla, often bearing the team's emblem. For instance, Castellers de Barcelona team wear red shirts while Castellers de Vilafranca wear green shirts.

The sash (faixa) is the most important part of their outfit, since it supports the lower back and is used by other castellers in the team as a foothold or handhold when climbing up the tower. This tasselled piece of cloth varies in length and width and depends on the casteller's position inside the tower and also on choice. The length of the sash ranges from 1.5 to 12 m, and usually is shorter for those higher up in the castell. Performing castellers usually go barefoot as to minimise injuries upon each other as they climb to their position and also for sensitivity when balancing and to have better feel and hold each other.


The arrangement of castellers can be into a multi-tiered structure and the highest has a height spanning of nine or ten people from ground up.[6][7] The motto of Castellers is "Força, equilibri, valor i seny" (Strength, balance, courage and common sense).[8]


Accidents are rare during the construction of a castell; however, as in every other crowded cultural event, ambulances are stationed nearby in case a person needs immediate attention.[9] Fatal accidents do occur, such as on July 23, 2006, in Mataró a young casteller fell off the formation of a castell and died.[10] Prior to this, the previous death of a participant was in 1983 in Torredembarra.[11]


Castell nomenclature

Castellers in Tarragona.

Castells are primarily described by number of people in each level and the total number of levels, and sometimes also by a style of formation. Levels are composed of between one and five individuals standing on the shoulders of the level below.

Common terms indicating the number of people for each level of a tower:

Numbers of levels most commonly built:

Very high towers and ones with a small number of people on each level normally need extra support from the base or bottom levels. These base levels are frequently indicated as part of the name of the tower. Three kinds of base levels are most commonly used:

The word agulla ("needle") refers to a high column of one person per level which is built inside the main tower. When the castell is being dismantled, the agulla must remain standing until the outside part of the castell is already down.

Another aspect of castell nomenclature refers to how successfully the tower was completed. Four terms are used:


4 in 9 completed
Fully constructed
Remaining agulla after dismantling of upper levels
The Castellers de Vilafranca's Quatre de nou amb folre i l'agulla (Four in nine with folre and agulla)


Colles castelleres

This list is incomplete; you can help by expanding it.

In Catalonia and Catalan-speaking regions[18]

Colla exterior (outside the Catalan-speaking region)

See also


  1. BBC, Close-Up: Catalonia's human towers Archived November 8, 2016, at the Wayback Machine.
  2. 1 2 "Los 'castells', Patrimonio de la Humanidad" (in Spanish). El País. 16 November 2010. Retrieved 12 October 2014.
  3. Català i Roca, Pere. "ELS CASTELLS DELS XIQUETS DE VALLS". VALLS SONS I MÚSIQUES DE FESTA (in Catalan). Retrieved 12 October 2014.
  4. "Euromaxx on tour: Vilanova i la Geltrú". Deutsche Welle. August 2009. Retrieved 15 August 2009.
  5. "Human Tower: The Largest One In History". 2006-09-30. Retrieved 15 August 2009. External link in |publisher= (help)
  6. Bienias, M. (2009-04-30). "Catalonia's human castles". Retrieved 15 August 2009. External link in |publisher= (help)
  7. "DOXA Documentary Film Festival - press kit" (PDF). May 2007. Retrieved 15 August 2009. External link in |publisher= (help)
  8. del Campo, Esther (2009-10-25). "In the city - Human towers break frontiers". European Commission, Directorate General Enlargement. Retrieved 15 August 2009.
  9. Broili, S. (6 April 2007). "Some Full Frame offerings". Retrieved 15 August 2009.
  10. "A 12 year old girl dies after falling off a "castell"". August 4, 2006.
  11. Tremlett, Giles (6 August 2006). "Young girl dies after fall from nine-storey human tower". The Guardian. Retrieved 15 January 2016.
  12. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2016-06-18. Retrieved 2014-03-18.
  13. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2016-04-18. Retrieved 2014-03-18.
  14. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2016-06-03. Retrieved 2014-03-18.
  15. //
  16. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2014-01-01. Retrieved 2014-03-18.
  17. Efren Garcia (2015-11-23). "Historic record in Catalonia's human tower building". Ara (newspaper). Retrieved 2015-11-24.
  18. "Relació de totes les colles castelleres". Retrieved 2016-10-31.
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