Updated March 2023.
NOTE: This event is normally held around the 3rd week of October. Dates for 2023/24 have not been confirmed at the time of this update.
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The Art of Castells: A Towering Tradition in Catalonia
If you’ve ever visited Catalonia, you may have had the pleasure of witnessing one of the region’s most thrilling and awe-inspiring traditions: castells. These human towers, made entirely of people standing on each other’s shoulders, are a testament to the power of teamwork, skill, and sheer bravery.
But castells aren’t just a random spectacle – they’re a deeply rooted tradition with a long and fascinating history. In this article, we’ll explore the origins of castells, how they’ve evolved over time, and what makes them such a beloved and uniquely Catalan tradition. From the earliest days of castells in the 18th century to the modern-day competitions that draw crowds of thousands, we’ll take a closer look at this incredible art form and what makes it so special.
A Brief History of Castells
The tradition of castells has a long and fascinating history that dates back over three hundred years. The earliest documented record of castells comes from 1712, when the first castell was built in Valls, near the city of Tarragona.
Originally, castells were performed during the festivals of the Catholic Church. However, over time, they began to take on a more secular role and became a popular form of entertainment throughout Catalonia.
In the early days, castells were small and simple structures, typically no more than three or four levels high. But over time, they grew in complexity and height, with more and more people joining in to create these amazing human towers.
During the 18th century, castells spread to other towns and cities in the area, including Vilafranca del Penedès and Tarragona. However, it wasn’t until the 20th century that castells began to gain widespread popularity throughout Catalonia.
In the 1960s and 1970s, interest in castells began to grow, with more and more people getting involved in this unique and thrilling tradition. And in the 1980s, women were finally included in the formerly male-only discipline, marking a major milestone in the history of castells.
Today, castells remain an important part of Catalan culture, with hundreds of teams across the region competing in festivals and competitions throughout the year. And while the tradition may be centuries old, it continues to evolve and adapt, with new and more complex towers being built every year.
This acrobatic feat originated in the Ball dels Valencians (Valencian Dance) in Valls, near the city of Tarragona, and quickly spread to other towns and cities in the area, including Vilafranca del Penedès and Tarragona. And over the last 50 years, the practice of building castells has grown in popularity, becoming a beloved Catalan tradition.
Women in Castells: Breaking Barriers and Building Towers
But it’s not just a man’s world anymore. In the 1980s, women were finally included in the formerly male-only discipline, and their presence has allowed for the construction of even taller and stronger castells. In fact, the tallest human tower to date is the “4 by 10” with 10 levels and 4 people per level!
Castells Today: Competitions and Festivals
While the Ball dels Valencians focuses more on the acrobatic nature of building ever taller human towers, the Muixeranga is a more religious and allegorical version that retains its traditions and is performed in Algemesi, Valencia and other villages where it is called moixiganga.