5 essential human tower building events
Strength, balance, courage and common sense, the four key concepts of human tower building, repeated like a mantra by its practitioners. For spectators, the most appropriate words might be thrills, nerves, suspense and joy. Without a doubt, to experience a human tower building event is to navigate a sea of sensations. So it’s no wonder that UNESCO inscribed this Catalan tradition par excellence on its list of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.
The tradition of human tower building originated in the regions of Tarragona and gradually spread across Catalonia. Nowadays, you can see very difficult towers being built in squares all over the country. If you’ve never witnessed a human tower building event, rest assured that they’re all enjoyable, but if you want to see some gamma extra towers (the most difficult category) in the regions of Barcelona, these are the events (in chronological order) to put in your diary.
1. Festa Major in Terrassa
First Sunday after Saint Peter’s Day (29 June). The Minyons de Terrassa are one of the leading colles (human tower teams) and during the Festa Major (Main Festival) of Terrassa they always build gamma extra towers, despite the fact that the event falls rather early in the tower building calendar. They’re accompanied by the Castellers de Terrassa and a third colla.
2. Les Santes (The Saints) in Mataró
This human tower building event falls on the Sunday before the day of the patron saints of Mataró, Saint Juliana and Saint Semproniana (27 July). The local colla, the Capgrossos (Bigheads), has built some of its most difficult towers at this event. Two other teams are invited, which in recent years have also been in the gamma extra category.
3. Saint Felix’s Day in Vilafranca del Penedès
For many, the human tower building event to top them all is the one that falls on Saint Felix’s Day (30 August) in Vilafranca del Penedès, in which the top four colles from the previous season are invited to take part. This decision, taken by the organisers of the festival, is often a source of heated debate. The event usually lasts for more than four hours and features an incredible number of stratospheric towers.
4. All Saints’ Day in Vilafranca del Penedès
In the capital of the Alt Penedès region, chestnuts, sweet potatoes and panellets (traditional small cakes eaten around All Saints’ Day) are not the only ingredients you’ll find on 1 November; there are human towers as well. The event is hosted by the Castellers de Vilafranca, another top colla. Unlike on 30 August, the colles invited on this day are not considered the top four from the previous season but they’re always first-rate teams and often give their best performances of the season on All Saints’ Day.
5. Diada dels Minyons in Terrassa
On the third Sunday of November, when many colles have already finished their season, the mauve-shirted Minyons de Terrassa have still got enough strength and enthusiasm left to build towers. They pull out all the stops and often give historic performances. They’re accompanied by two other teams.
Other unmissable human tower building events include the one held during the Festival of La Mercè in Barcelona, the one held during the Festa Major of Vilanova i la Geltrú and... well, the list is endless!
Coordinadora de Colles Castelleres de Catalunya
Turisme de Vilafranca del Penedès
Informació turística de Terrassa
Informació turística de Mataró