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Camino FAQ: What is the Botafumeiro and when can I see it?

The ‘Botafumeiro’ is the famous giant thurible or censer in the 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, weighing 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-meter long arched trajectory along the cathedral.

In only a minute and a half, the ‘Botafumeiro’ reaches 68km per hour.

The ‘Botafumeiro’ is generally used on special dates throughout the year for important liturgical celebrations such as Christmas Day and Saint James Day.

In 2020 the Botafumeiro is planned to be used to celebrate the opening of the Pilgrim Door for the Holy Year 2021. This is intended to take place on December 31st 2020 at the newly renovated Cathedral in Santiago de Compostela.

When to see the Botafumeiro in 2021, here’s the 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 on the form below:

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