Santa Tecla

Saint Thecla was one of early Christians. She belonged to one of the communities set up by Saint Paul. She is the patron saint of the Catalan city of Tarragona. There she is known as Santa Tecla. Naturally, the locals have the festival dedicated to her. It has the status of traditional festival of national interest. The festival is actually the series of events held during September. But it reaches the peak in days around the Saint's feast on the 23rd of September.

One of the most popular attractions of the Saint Tecla Festival are the “human castles” (in Catalan “castells”), “spoken dances” and entremesos. Castells are kind of figures made entirely of human bodies. They are performed by special teams known as the colles costelleres. Santa Tecla Festival includes performances of four teams – two who are the best at the moment and two from the last year festival. Castells are formed at the Plaça de la Font (Fountain Square).

Castell in Tarragona
Castell in Tarragona

It is believed that the tradition was born in the town of Valls which is located not far from the Tarragona itself. Castell traditionally has four levels. But the attempt to create the fifth one is often made too. The formation of castell is finished when the person called the enxaneta climbs on the top and raises his hand with four fingers erect. These act symbolizes the stripes of the Catalan flag.

Colles costelleres have special performance on the 24th of September. This tradition is called the Walking Pillar (Pillar Caminant). Everything starts in front of the city cathedral. Each team has to form a human pillar made of four persons. Then they have to walk to the balcony of the City Hall. The Xiquets de Tarragona (1970) team is the oldest one. It starts the route first. It is followed by the Colla Jove Xiquets de Tarragona (1979), the Xiquets del Serrallo (1988) and the Castellers de Sant Pere i Sant Pau (1990). It takes them between 10 and 15 minutes to pass the 500 metres long route.

Pillar Caminant
Pillar Caminant

The festival also has its big procession. It has been part of the festival since the 19th century. The procession includes various characters. There those from the Bible like Christ, Apostles, prophets and virgins. You can also see some amazing monsters - the Dragon from Saint Roc, Female Dragon (Víbria), Ox, Lion, Mule, Eagle and the Cucafera. Cucafera is the type of monster that has been symbol of evil since the Middle Ages. Nowadays it lost lot of its dark character as it throws sweets out of its mouth. The Eagle has special importance for the locals as it is the symbol of the city.

Víbria
Víbria

Dance is a very important element of the procession. A person performing the Stick Dance wears traditional white clothes, scarf and red belt. There are also bell decorations tied to the clothes. The dancer hold sticks. One of participants carries a big mace. There is a devil holding a fork. The festival also includes many other dances like the Dames i Vels Dance, Shepherds Dance, Patatuf Dance, Cossis Dance etc. Each party needs musicians. Santa Tecla Festival is no exception. Most performances include melodies played with oboe.