Camino FAQ: When to see the Botafumeiro

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.

The ‘Botafumeiro’ is 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

Easter Sunday

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 Carretas, 33
CP 15705
Santiago de Compostela
Tel: (+34) 981 568 846 –

To help you plan or book your Camino de Santiago holiday, contact our travel consultants.


  1. By Maria

    Hi Jonathan, we are currently waiting on updates from Santiago Cathedral in relation to the Botafumeiro. Full renovation works are not due to be completed until later this year so we don’t know when the main altar will be reopened yet. We’ll share the updates on the blog as soon as we can. Thank you very much for getting in touch!

  2. By Jonathan

    I’m planning the pilgrimage in mid-June 2020 and hope the renovation will be complete in time to attend mass in the cathedral. Are there normal days the botafumeiro is used in the mass or is it only on special days and by paid request? thank you for any help you can provide!

  3. By Maria

    Hi G Eagle, there is no botafumeiro this year unfortunately as the main altar in the Cathedral is undergoing restoration works. See the most up to date information here: However pilgrim mass is still taking place at 12 (at St Francisco Church).

  4. By G Eagle

    Do you happen to know when the Botafumeiro can be seen on the 23rd May: Apparition of the Apostle? Thank you.

  5. By Mackenzie

    Hi, My mom and I are going to be in Santiago de Compostella for Christmas day. From the cathedral’s website it seems that there are numerous mass times, do you know which is when the botafumiero is held?

  6. By Lisa

    Hi Rami, thank you for your question and we are glad that you are finding the information useful. Our best advice would be to contact the Pilgrims office in Santiago de Compostela directly and they will be able to advise you on the most up to date times. You can see from the site that pilgrim masses take place at 1pm and 6pm on most days. See here for the timetable: Please note that Salceda de Caselas is more than 100km from Santiago and on average we recommend walking this over 6 days. If you would like any further information on what our packages include please contact our customer care team on

  7. By Rami

    Thanks for this information… Me and my wife are planning to make a pilgrimage (on foot) the coming August. I am thinking to reach the Cathedral on August 15 (Assumption of the Blessed Virgin). What time do you think that the mass will start, and what time do you advice to leave Salceda?

  8. By Lisa

    Hi Rick, it is called the artichoke and it is used to tighten the ropes. Kindest regards, Lisa.

  9. By Rick

    What was the device that was put on the end of the rope after the censer was removed? Some sort of pendulum?

  10. By Lisa

    Good Morning Charif, thank you for your query. I am going to pass it on to our travel team so that they can best answer your questions. Kind regards, Lisa.

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