The Botafumeiro in the Camino de Santiago
The Botafumeiro flying over Santiago Cathedral
Share this:

The Botafumeiro flying in Santiago de Compostela Cathedral




The Botafumeiro – Censer or Incenser in english _ is for sure among the highlights in the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela hanging thanks to a oulleys system. Eight men are needed to make the 1.50 meters size censer swing. They are called Tiraboleiros. With their boost you will enjoy the up to 65 metres high arch trajectory Why? Well, I think it will not be easy watching a censer swinging for about 5 minutes over the head of participants during a Mass. Many of them normally have just arrived from the Camino de Santiago reail.And at a speedness of at least 68 km/hour! This has been happening for 800 years; first was The Turibulum Magnum and then in the XV century when french king Louis XI supported the Cathedral with the creation of a huge silver censer spreading incense in the air in honour of God. The smoke goes up in the sky like our prayers head to God. So please forget about those poor theories saying it was created to send away the pilgrim’s smell after a long trail.

We are definitely lifted up watching it moving like a pendulum through the transept. You will be surprised to see that a simple rope holds an incenser which is 53 kilos heavy, 20 meters over the ground! This may explain why the one we contemplate is not the first nor the second..There have been actually five previous incensers to this one. Guess what happened…Yes. The rope. It broke four times, having our censers crashing against the Cathedral columns. Or even ending in the outside Platerias square. Fortunately never hitting anybody.

In 1809 the French Grand Armée – Napoleon soldiers – cought the previous one to this. Some say to make silver coins with it.

The Botafumeiro that pilgrims of the Camino de Santiago and tourist see these days is from 1851 and it’s made of silver plated brass.

People are these days a bit confused about WHEN they can see it in action; remember then; special religious celebrations or by writing to the Oficina del Peregrino  to book it for the date we will be in town. Forget about not updated info saying Fridays or Sunday morning mass.

The respect for the Cathedral traditions make not very easy to know if we will be able to see it the day we are in town. I am sure though that if you had in mind participating in one of the daily masses you could be blessed.

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


For more info or booking a Santiago de Compostela town and Cathedral tour, please write us to

About Author

Italo Pendola
Hola! My name is Italo and I live and work in Santiago de Compostela, Galicia, as Professional Tour Guide in this fascinating region in the North West of Spain. With my wife Angeles Rodriguez we made a team to share with you an unique experience.


Leave a Reply