Francisco (73): He began on top, was boss on highest level and now a hero
VILAFRANCA IN CATALONIA, SPAIN: This is about strength, balance, bravery, and the ultimate model of teamwork. Add lot of passion, Catalan values, and traditions, then you are in the middle of the most unique activity in Spain. As a rarity, compare bullfighting and Flamenco dance with Castell – also known as Human Tower. The point of this activity or sport is to achieve human towers as high as possible. Thousands og castellers are involved with delight – and a few with fear.
Nerves of steel
“The fear of falling from the top level isn´t something they think about when climbing”, some parents of the youngest girls and boys told. At the age of 6-8 years they climb to top, raise an arm in the air and immediately begins the descent. It’s always the youngest and lightest who complete the journey to eighth, ninth or even tenth level. Some so young they don´t know what to fear, or they have nerves of steel, even falling from the top level after tower collapsed.
The highest level
Human Tower, or castell, is a fascinating 200-year old traditional practice in Catalonia. It involves 100 teams of people working together to build impressive human towers, reaching several stories. So far, the highest level reached is 10.
Castellers de Vilafranca is one of the most important institutions in Catalonia and a representative of Catalan culture. The group was founded in 1948 – and 11-times winner of the human towers championship.
Members are voluntarily part of the team, with no difference in age, social class, or political, cultural, and religious beliefs. They are united by the same goal: building human towers.
Barcelona has more than the famous football club to offer tourists visiting Catalonia. During the season from March to November there are loads of possibilities to watch groups making Human Towers.
To stay updated about all the events, log on to Coordinadora de Colles Castelleres de Catalunya. Or visit Castellers de Vilafranca
The towers are usually built during festive occasions, such as festivals or special events. The process of building a human tower requires coordination, teamwork, and an understanding of specific roles.
Very strong men
Typically, a team of Castellers, known as a colla, starts by forming a solid base, called the pinya, consisting of many strong men linking their arms and creating a solid foundation. On top of the pinya, additional levels are formed, each consisting of fewer individuals.
The construction continues with subsequent levels until a young child known as the enxaneta climbs to the top and stands upright raising their hand with four fingers extended as a symbol of their team’s unity and success. Once this moment is achieved, the disassembly of the tower begins in a carefully coordinated manner to ensure the safety of all participants.
Training and trust
Building and dismantling these intricate human towers require intense training, practice, and trust among team members. The castells symbolize values such as teamwork, solidarity, and the ability to overcome challenges together.
The tradition of castells is not just about building physical towers but also represents the spirit of community and shared strength. It is a remarkable display that celebrates Catalan culture and has gained international recognition as a unique and awe-inspiring spectacle.
No World Record
Some are thinking and dreaming about reaching 11th level, not any teams have ever tried to reach such record.
Veteran Francisco Moreno (73), better known as “Melilla”, was team leader or “colla cap” at Castellers de Vilafranca from 1995 and for seven years. He has been with this powerful team since 1957 and he was a manager famous for new records from eight to nine and to ten.
Will never happen
At the club’s location in Vilafranca there is everything from a museum to a big hall for training. Francisco started as young boy climbing to top of the pyramid, now he stands in the ground foundation with a clear opinion about the magical height of level 11.
“No, it will never happen, not in my time”, Francisco declares. That said, he has the recipe for reaching this dream height. “We need at least thousand people to make this happen. The foundation itself must be expanded by a record number to be as strong as a mountain. Then, each level must be well prepared before trying to reach a new world record.”
Standing on each other´s shoulders and making the highest tower, is this a sport or something else…? Most people are divided. Some don´t want to call it sport, others say if chess is sport, then this is far more related to sport. Every event is like a town festival, worth to visit for any not connected with building towers.
What´s for sure: every second year in early October, thousands flock to Tarragona to watch the most gigantic human tower competition. The biggest Catalan tradition is a revelation and reminder that the path to success is not always easy, but worth the climb!