Note: Until further notice Botafumeiro will not work at the 7:30 pm Mass on Fridays.
The Botafumeiro (“censer” in Galician) is one of the most famous and popular symbols of the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela. It is a large thurible that hangs by means of a system of pulleys from the main dome of the Cathedral and swings toward the side naves. It takes eight men to move it, who are known as “tiraboleiros”. It weighs 53 kg and measures 1.50 metres; it hangs from a height of 20 metres and can pick up great speed.
The Botafumeiro is used for liturgical reasons, in the same way as a priest would use a censer at the altar. It operates during the Cathedral's main solemnities during the entrance procession or at the end of the Eucharist. The purpose of this great censer is to symbolise the true attitude of the believer. In the same way that the smoke from the incense rises to the top of the temple's naves, so must the prayers of the pilgrims rise to reach the heart of God. And in the same manner that the aroma of the incense perfumes the entire basilica, so must Christians, with their virtues and the testimony of their lives, impregnate with the good scent of Christ, the society that they live in.
The first documented reference to the Botafumeiro is an annotation in a page from the Codex Calixtinus, where it is referred to as “Turibulum Magnum”. Throughout history there have been several thuribles; today there are two; one made from brass dating from 1851 by José Losada, which substituted the one stolen during the French occupation and which is the one that is used normally. The second Botafumeiro is a replica in silver of the previous one and was given to the Apostle by the Provisional Second-Lieutenants in 1971. It is only placed in the cathedral's transept when it is in use, and it is kept in the Chapter Library.
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
- 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 pilgrimages that have duly requested it from the Cathedral. To reserve the Botafumeiro write an email to: firstname.lastname@example.org.