Posted by: travelrat | June 7, 2013

Castellers of Vilafranca

Castellers 2

I’ve seen Catalunyan castellers building their ‘human towers’ in many a TV documentary. I always thought that it would be an interesting spectacle to see if I happened to be in the area, but wouldn’t make a special trip to see it.

I didn’t have to, for, as part of the Salisbury Arts Festival, the castellers of Vilafranca came to Salisbury, to build their castell in front of the Cathedral.

They ‘built’ several ‘towers’, as much as 15 metres high, and, at the top stood a child of primary school age.

I wondered what it was all about, and, coincidentally, an explanation came to me in a book I took out from the library … ‘Donkeys on my Doorstep’ by Anna Nicholas. And, I only picked it up on the spur of the moment; I’d actually gone into the libary for another purpose altogether.

In the book, her friend explained that the Catalunyans began making the towers to demonstrate their national unity.

‘It is a symbolic act’ he said ‘it is the creation of an edifice with strong foundations and infrastructure, built for and by the people.’

When the tower is complete, and the infant on top is in place, he must raise one arm, and show four fingers, which symbolise the stripes on the Catalunyan flag.

The children did just this on the first towers to be built, but, on the last, he flew the English flag of the cross of St George. Over there, though, they call him Sant Jordi … and he’s also the Patron Saint of Catalunya.

Castellers 1


  1. Wow I had no idea about Sant Jordi – that’s really interesting. Great post!

  2. Interesting post. I always thought that castellers were simply acrobatic groups of people just showing off their skills – nice to learn the real history of them. I would wonder though just how safe it is to be holding a primary school aged child some 15 meters up in the air!

    • I thought Anna Nicholas explained it very well in her book … which I found a couple of days later, by happy accident.

      The children seemed happy enough, and I’m sure every precaution is taken to ensure their safety. (You may have noticed; the kids are wearing helmets, while the adults aren’t)

      The ‘Health and Safety Police’ didn’t seem much in evidence, so it’s probable their criteria were satisfied, and nobody else seems too bent out of shape about it.

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