01 Oct 20

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 (1.5 metres high). 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 weighs over 80kg and is filled with 40kg of 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 it swung?

This is a commonly asked question and one we could answer with greater certainty until this year. It used to be swung at Friday evening 7.30 mass, as well as on Saints days, and when it was paid for. However, this January, the Cathedral has announced it will no longer be swinging the Botafumeiro at the Friday evenings mass.

So the short answer is: the dates below, but otherwise, no one really knows when it will be swung and it is at the discretion of the Santiago cathedral. The church would prefer people attend for worship rather than just for the spectacle of the Botofumeiro, however, we hope you are all fortunate enough to see it on your visit to Santiago.

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

The Botafumeiro can also operate for pilgrims who have duly requested it from the Cathedral. To reserve the Botafumeiro write an email to: botafumeiro@catedraldesantiago.es

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