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Castells, Bild: davide bonaldo / shutterstock

Castells (human towers) in Tarragona

On the Spanish Mediterranean coast, the port city of Tarragona is located about 100 kilometers southwest of Barcelona. The Roman amphitheatre offers magnificent views of the sea and the fine golden sandy beaches of the Costa Dorada. The real sensation of the city, however, are the human towers that are built here by the Tarragonese. The Catalans call them the Castells, which have become an authentic part of Catalan culture for over 200 years.

Roots of the Castells

Monument as castellers Tarragona
Monument of the Human Towers in Tarragona (Monument as castellers), Image: Alexey Broslavets / shutterstock

In the early 19th century, Catalonia came up with the idea of showing the skill and power of the Catalans with human towers that rise high into the sky, thus manifesting the majesty of the culture and the people here. By the middle of the 19th century, the impressive Castells had spread throughout Catalonia and began to develop into a centre of regional identity in Tarragona.

The Castells became higher and higher until social crises, the First World War and later the Spanish Civil War led to a widespread collapse of the Castells. After the Second World War, a new period of prosperity began, with Barcelona and today Tarragona becoming the centre. The modern mass media led to ever new competitions and increased the ambition of the Castellers. Today, prestigious competitions between the various Castellers groups take place throughout the country, creating unique cultural events. Previously unthinkable constructions were realized. Since 1980, there has been talk of a golden age for the Castells.

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The culture and technology of the Castells

Castell's Competition
Photograph of the annual Human Tower Competition in Tarragona, Image: David Ortega Baglietto / shutterstock

The Castellers who build the Castells are organized in local groups that compete with each other. Everyone wants to build the most beautiful and best Castell. The event includes exact techniques and a variety of rituals. The Castells can be between 2 and 9 men strong and eight, nine or ten and even more levels high. Musicians accompany the event with their Catalan drums and shawms. The strong always support the weak.

The Castells, which can contain very different foundations and many floors, are planned using sophisticated technology. The Castells, symbols of the cooperation of the Catalans in the community, are built in the central squares, in Tarragona usually in front of the cathedral or in the Rambla Nova. Here is one of the monuments to the human towers often found in Catalonia, in which the faces of well-known artists such as Pablo Picasso, cellist Casals and Joan Miró have been incorporated.

Castells in Tarragona today

During the summer season, a Castell is erected every Wednesday evening at 8 p.m. in front of the cathedral in the Plaza de la Seu. Other highlights can be found at Plaza Santiago Rusiñol. On some days throughout the summer until late autumn, large parties are celebrated with several Castellers groups. Brave visitors to Tarragona actively participate in Castells workshops organised by the Tourist Office. In autumn, a competition of Catalan Castellers groups is celebrated in the Tarragona Arena. The homepage of the tourist office provides information about dates.