22 Feb 23

The Santiago Botafumeiro

Sue Chater Camino

The Santiago Botafumeiro (pronounced Bot A Fum Ey O) is a famous thurible and one of the largest incense burners in the world, weighing 53kg and measuring 1.5m. It is suspended from the roof of the Santiago Cathedral by chains and swung by eight men in robes called tiraboleiros. Traditionally the thick incense smoke was used to disguise the smell of unwashed pilgrims and it was believed the smoke also had a prophylactic effect against the plague and other epidemics in addition to incense being an important part of the liturgy.

It is filled with charcoal and incense each time it is swung, which creates a mist of smoke as it reaches speeds of over 60km per hour above the congregation.

The Botafumeiro has been in existence in some form since the 11th century and has recently been made famous by those who have had the good fortune to see it swung and films such as The Way.

When is the Botafumeiro used?

The Botafumeiro is only guaranteed to be swung on special religious days (‘solemnities’):

  • 6 January: The Epiphany
  • Resurrection Sunday
  • 23 May: The Apparition of the Apostle-Clavijo
  • Pentecost
  • 25 July: The Martyrdom of Saint James
  • 15 August: The Assumption of Mary
  • 1 November: All Saints
  • Christ the King
  • 8 December: The Immaculate Conception
  • 25 December: Christmas Day
  • 30 December: Transfer of the remains of the Apostle

It may also operate at different times/services when it has been specially arranged with the Cathedral. To contact the Cathedral to enquire about reserving the Botafumeiro and the costs involved, email botafumeiro@catedraldesantiago.es

We hope you are fortunate enough to see it on your visit to Santiago.

Find out more here.


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