La Mercè – Barcelona’s Festival!
This year’s La Mercè celebrations are the shortest in recent years, but be sure they will not be less exciting, intense and fun. You’ll be thrilled by one of La Mercè essentials : ‘Castells’ (human towers) on Saturday the 24th at 12h.
Over the course of the day, hundreds of people will attended this fabulous tradition. Although most of them will be Catalans living in Barcelona or nearby, there will also be plenty of tourists who stopped by and many locals who wanted to get a closer approach at Catalan culture. Whether they are aware of the tradition beforehand or not, most of them will end up knowing a bit more about La Mercè and in particular, about Human Towers (Castells).
Once the parade of La Mercè court finishes, in Plaça de Sant Jaume, the ‘Castells’ performance begins. All the local castellers groups will be there: 6 in total. We are proud to be part of the best one in town, Castellers de Sants (up to 9 levels). We get our name from the neighborhood of Sants a symbol of the Textile Industrial Revolution. We wear the grey shirts, symbolizing the dirt on the shirts of the workers in the textile mills, so important in the neighborhood during the middle of the 19th century.
Do you want to know a little bit more about Castells?:
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, 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 castle is complete once all castellers have climbed into their designated places, and the enxaneta climbs into place at the top and raises one hand -in the old days it was done 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 one after the other. The dismantling of the castell, is done amidst the cheering of the crowd, is often the most treacherous stage of the event.
Castells are first described by the number of people in each level and then the total number of levels. Therefore a 4 de 8 has 4 people in each level and the castell has eight levels.
Here are the terms indicating the number of people per level of a castell:
- Pilar : one person per level (pilars can be of 4, 5, 6, 7 and only a few like ourselves reach the 8 levels)
- Torre : two people per level (of 7, 8 or 9 levels)
- Tres : three people per level (of 6, 7, 8, 9 and even 10!)
- Quatre : four people per level (up to 10 levels!)
- Cinc : five people per level (up to 9 levels)
Levels mostly built:
- Sis : six levels high
- Set : seven levels
- Vuit : eight levels
- Nou : nine levels
- Deu : ten levels
The three kinds of base:
- Pinya : the ground level base, made of hundreds of people.
- Folre : a second level base built on top of the pinya when the building 9 levels or the 2 de 8, also known as torre de 8. It is always mentioned when describing the castell.
- Manilles : a third level base built on top of the folre when extrem castells are built!
There is another interesting part of the structure: The agulla. Agulla is a pilar built inside the castell, so to consider the castell has completely succeded, the agulla must remain standing until the outside levels of the castell is already down. Exemple of names: 4 de 8 amb l’agulla, or 3 de 9 amb l’agulla.
The motto of Castellers is “Força, equilibri, valor i seny” (Strength, balance, courage and common sense).
Come along, feel and enjoy the passion of Castells and….. why not, join if you want, everybody is welcome!
Come and live the experience with us!