Home > spain, travel > The Botafumeiro of Santiago de Compostela

The Botafumeiro of Santiago de Compostela

December 23, 2011 Leave a comment Go to comments

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Seeing the Santiago de Compostela Botafumeiro in action was one of the highlights of this year for me and my husband, because we happened on it by accident as we finished a tour of the cathedral roof on a non-religious holiday.  The Botafumeiro is a metal ‘censer’ in which incense is burned during services – the day of the Feast of St James (ie Santiago) is one of them.  The Botafumeiro in Santiago de Compostela is one of the largest censers in the world with a weight of 80kg and a height of 1.60 m. This Botafumeiro is swung from a rope hanging from the dome of the cathedral- a pendulum movement – by eight red-robed men called tiraboleiros. It produces thick clouds of incense, and at the top of its 65m arc it reaches an angle of 82 degrees, about 21m from the floor of the cathedral.

We were told that it is expensive to fill the Botafumeiro with incense so it is generally used only on religious holidays, however, tour groups can pay about 300 euros to have a private session to see it burning and swinging. We exited our roof tour into the locked cathedral where a group of Italian pilgrims were being given a private showing, so now you understand why we were delighted to be able to see it swing.

This tradition started in the 11th century as pilgrims finally arrived at the Santiago de Compostela cathedral, after crossing the north of Spain, tired and a bit ‘fragrant’; so, the Botafumeiro was used to take care of this tiny problem. But the burning of incense is now a standard part of the traditional Catholic mass.

  1. December 23, 2011 at 10:07 pm

    Wow – how lucky you were to see it! Hiking the Camino is high on my wish list and I would love to be there for the botafumeiro. Amazing photos – love the effect of black and white.

  2. December 29, 2011 at 1:54 pm

    Thank you Anita. Yes, it was a magnificent experience to be there at the time they were doing the botafumeiro. Have you seen the movie ‘The Way’ (Martin Sheen & Emilio Estevez)?, I would strongly recommend it if you are keen on doing El Camino. Best wishes for a good 2012!!

  3. January 13, 2012 at 12:24 pm

    Ali, I can just picture you shooting with your camara; I can see you were all over the place just enjoing yourself. Love the effects of going back af forth to color and black images. Thank you for sharing…..excellent work!

  4. March 8, 2012 at 11:49 pm

    Extraordinary shots! My husband and I visited Santiago over Thanksgiving just over a year ago. We attended a service at this church twice. On the first evening, we eagerly anticipated the botafumeiro, only to find that not enough money was collected by attendees to do so. The next night, our patience was rewarded with a super swinging and showing. So theatrical! We might have done things backwards by starting by visiting Santiago, but now we both hope to backtrack and hike the Camino someday soon.

  1. March 16, 2012 at 11:23 pm

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