Els Gegants are large figures typical of the processions in Catalan Festa Majors. They are often of monarchs, nobles, characters dressed in traditional clothing or famous people from the town they represent.
The origins of Gegants in Catalonia go back to the 15th century and the earliest documented occurrence is a Corpus Christi procession in Barcelona in 1424 in which an oversized figure of Goliath, accompamied by David and Saint Christopher, was involved in the parade.
Throughout the 19th century, various Catalan towns and villages began to use gegants as expressions of local identity but it was only after the «Concurs de gegants nanos i monstros tipichs» (Competition of Giants, Dwarves and Typical Monsters) organised by the Ajuntament de Barcelona in 1902 that their popularity really took off.
During the Franco period, many of the traditional gegants were redesigned to represent the Catholic Monarchs, Ferdinand and Isabel, so loved by the regime, and as National Catholic ideologues disapproved of Corpus Christi, they came to be used only in parish festivals, if at all.
With the return of democracy after Franco's death in 1975, many towns were able to recover their local festive traditions and figures of the Seguici Popular, such as Gegants, were at the forefront of this.
This began a new golden era for gegants with a new clutch of associations, known as Colles de Geganters being started, and long-forgotten figures being recovered from storage rooms in town halls, which also brought work to a new generation of craftsmen to restore them.
In 1984, the Agrupació de Colles de Geganters de Catalunya, which designated the Annual Geganter City of Catalonia from the following year onwards, was founded and since then the tradition has grown.
Today, every town and neighbourhood seems to have its own pair of Gegants and they are the central part of the procession or cercavila for the Festa Major.
I generally try to catch as many cercavilas or festa major processions as I can and a good time to catch a large number of gegants all in one place is shown in the picture below, which was taken in Plaça de Sant Jaume in Barcelona just before the main procession of Les Festes de la Mercè.
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