Castells - Colles Castelleres de Catalunya
Drawings by Xavier Ruiz, courtesy of Lynx Edicions

Technique

Human towers are not the result of random improvisation in the square, but the fruits, in the first place, of a detailed study of the structures, their components, the functions and locations of each of them, and, in the second place, of constant rehearsal going on for months.

Parts of a human tower

Pom de dalt (top of the tower)

This always refers to the last three levels of a human tower, apart from pillars. It consists of the youngest castellers of the structure: the dosos (twoes ), the acotxador (bending child) and the enxaneta (crowner). Note that, when it comes to determining the height of a human tower, each of these counts as a level!

Tronc (trunk)

These are the human tower builders who form the skeleton of the structure. The castellers in each level and hence the levels of a castell are known as: seconds, thirds, fourths, fifths, sixths and sevenths. The type of human tower builder varies depending on the level: the higher up they are, the lighter and more agile the components need to be.

Folre and manilles (auxiliary base and extra base)

The technical difficulty of some constructions means that a second auxiliary base, known as folre, or even a third extra one, called manilles, may be necessary. They are designed like the first base but on a smaller scale in terms of the number of castellers.

Pinya (base)

This is the bottom of a castell, and it has two basic functions: firstly, fixing the structure and, secondly, operating as a mattress in case of a fall. One of the things that most surprises less knowledgeable spectators is that the structure of the base is perfectly organised in terms of the number of castellers forming part of it, the way they are positioned, and their function. It is a real jigsaw puzzle.

Types of castells

Not all human towers are the same. The name of the structure is determined by two parameters: the number of castellers per level, without counting the top of the tower, and the number of levels. The minimum number of levels a structure must have to be considered as a castell is six, except for pillars, which are made with four levels and upwards.

Simple structures

These are the easiest to count and identify. They consist of one, two, three or four human tower builders per level. Do not be misled: when we talk about simple structures we do not mean they are easy to make.

Pilar (pillar)

This is one of the most technical structures, as each level is formed by just one casteller. It is used to close all performances and sometimes to begin them. The range of pillars runs from the easiest, with four levels, up to eight levels, which, to date, is the most difficult ever achieved.

Dos or torre (two or tower)

It is technically very complex because it requires a great deal of balance. Each level consists of two human tower builders. The tower is made with between six and nine levels.

Tres (three)

This consists of three castellers per level. It is the structure that has gone highest, as it has been made with ten levels.

Quatre (four)

This is the most stable structure, normally used to give new human tower builders their debuts. The four of nine without auxiliary base is the most difficult four ever achieved.

Complex structures

With more than four castellers per level , complex structures are just combinations of simple structures. Some of them are real works of engineering.

Cinc (five)

This consists of five human tower builders per level, arranged as a three and an adjacent two. It has the unusual feature that the enxaneta, or crowner, has to raise his or her hand twice, on both tops.

Castells amb l’agulla (human towers with pillar)

These consist of an external structure, which was traditionally a four – but can also be a three or even a five – and a pillar built inside. These castells are not considered to be crowned until the external structure has been entirely undone.

Set (seven)

This consists of a four and a three stuck together, one next to the other, as with the five. The crowner has to crown it twice.

Nou (nine)

This is the human tower that uses most people, as it is formed by nine castellers per level organised into an internal three, and three structures of two. It can be made either with a single crowner or with three.

Unusual structures

These are human towers which, despite having a simple structure, stand out because of the way they are raised or because they lack some usual support base.

Aixecats per sota (lifted up)

Human tower builders normally climb up the outside of the structure until they reach their positions on the shoulders of their colleagues. However, there is also a reverse technique: these are human towers which are lifted up. The upper levels are seen first and are then lifted up as the lower levels are incorporated underneath. The classic lifted-up structure is the three: the most difficult ever achieved is the lifted-up three of eight.

Castells nets (human towers without a base)

Each human tower has a standard base: there are castells that only have the simple base, but others, because of their difficulty, need a second base, the folre or auxiliary base, or even a third one, the manilles or extra base. Towers are said to be nets, or without a base, when they are attempted without the helpers they would normally have. The quatre de nou, or four of nine, for example, is usually made with an auxiliary base. However, if it is built without this, it is a quatre de nou net or quatre de nou sense folre, which is a four of nine without auxiliary base. The same thing happens when a human tower that normally has an extra base is attempted without one, or when a construction that only has a simple base is attempted without one.

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