I bet you have never seen a censer as big as the one in the Cathedral of Santiago! Nor one as famous: it even his its own name. It is called “Botafumeiro,” because, in the Galician language, “bota fume” (it expels smoke). This vessel has been used for many centuries to perfume the Cathedral with incense. Imagine how useful this was when, during the Middle Ages, hundreds and hundreds of pilgrims arrived without having washed themselves throughout the Way of St. James… The air had to be purified!
Today, it can be seen during some special masses. And it is worthwhile, because you will never forget it. The organs begin to play after Communion, leading in the “tiraboleiros,” eight men that bring the “Botafumeiro” from the Library, full of incense and coal. It has an empty weight of 60 kilos, but can weigh over 100 kilos when full! They then tie it to a very thick rope and with a skilful push, the “Botafumeiro” begins to swing like a pendulum, while the “tiraboleiros” pull on the rope to make it go faster, and higher and higher… In a minute and a half, it will almost seem to be touching the vault! It is sensational!
A lot of people observe the “Botafumeiro” with a combination of amazement and fear. But don’t be afraid: although it eventually goes as fast as a car, at almost 70 km per hour, there have never been any accidents… Well, almost never. More than 500 years ago, the “Botafumeiro” came flying off and crashed into the Platerías door. Many years later, the rope broke and the censer fell to the ground. And recently, somebody broke their nose when they got too close… but nothing more. Not a bad record for almost 800 years of service, don’t you think?
When can I see it?
Get it going