The ‘Botafumeiro’ is the famous giant thurible or censer in Santiago de Compostela cathedral. A ‘Botafumeiro’ has been used since the Middle Ages, originally to clean the air when crowds of pilgrims having completed the Camino de Santiago arrived in Santiago de Compostela after their long journey. The Codex Calixtinus, the first Camino de Santiago ‘guide-book’, refers to the ‘Botafumeiro’ as Turibulum Magnum, which means this ritual has been taking place at least since the 12th century. The current ‘Botafumeiro’ dates back to 1851 and it’s made of silver-plated brass, weighting 53kgs when empty and up to 10 kgs more when full.
Eight men, called ‘tiraboleiros’, are required to operate the ‘Botafumeiro’. After being filled with incense and coal by the ‘tiraboleiros’, the 1,5mtr-high ‘Botafumeiro’ is tied to a rope hanging by the altar and set in motion with great precision, forming an impressive 65-metre long arched trajectory along the cathedral. In only a minute and a half, the ‘Botafumeiro’ reaches 68km per hour.
If you want to see the ‘Botafumeiro’ in use, the easiest way is to attend pilgrim mass on Friday evening at 19.30pm. It is also used on special dates throughout the year for important liturgical celebrations such as Christmas Day and Saint James Day.
Here’s the ‘Botafumeiro’ calendar:
6th January: Epiphany
Ascension of Our Lord (May)
23rd May: Apparition of the Apostle
Pentecost Sunday (50 days after Easter)
25th July: Feast of Saint James
15th August: Assumption of the Blessed Virgin
1st November: All Saints’ Day
Feast of Christ the King (Sunday before the first Sunday of Advent in November)
8th December: Immaculate Conception
25th December: Christmas Day
30th December: Arrival of the Holy Apostle
The Botafumeiro can also be requested and booked by individuals (you will need to check with the cathedral for fees).
Requests should be addressed to the Pilgrims Office:
Oficina de Acogida de Peregrinos
Rúa do Vilar, 1
15705 Santiago de Compostela
Tel: (+34) 981 568 846
firstname.lastname@example.org – www.peregrinossantiago.es
To help you plan or book your Camino de Santiago holiday, contact our travel consultants.