Gigantes on procession in Viana do Castelo

Since I was a child, I’ve been captivated by gigantes and cabecudos – as they are called in Portugal. I realise there are variations on those spellings in Spanish and Catalan.

In religious processions, they appear and the effect is hypnotic. Gigantes are huge dummies carried by a single person and gyrating to the rhythm of the music. Cabecudos are youths wearing large heads and moving around with more agility ahead of the gigantes.

A procession I saw many years back in Barcelona referenced medieval nobles and moors. But the one I’ve just experienced in the Portuguese town of Viana do Castelo portrays more recent figures. And whereas the style of the Barcelona gigantes is quite realistic – those in Viana are made in a deliberately crude folk art style.

The music that accompanies the Viana gigantes is a mixture of manic drumming – gosh, the Portuguese love their drums! – and a local bagpipe instrument that sounds very Arabic.

Here is a video and some images I took this weekend in what was huge fun. The festival is called the Romaria da Senhora d’Agonia (Our Lady of Agony) and every year it’s held over four days in late August – I thoroughly recommend a visit.

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