The faithful (and skeptical) that attend mass at the Santiago de Compostela cathedral look forward to seeing the botafumeiro hoisted high and swung high across the width of the church. This incense censer is one of the largest in the world. The tradition of burning incense at the pilgrim masses dates back nearly a millennium. There is a spiritual element to burning incense. Traditionally there was also a practical matter of masking the odiferous pilgrims.
Unfortunately, in the present day the botafumeiro is only regularly scheduled for one mass a week on Friday and special holy days. If you are fortunate, a group will pay extra to have it used at a mass you are attending.
We were fortunate.
We had a hot tip from our friend, Bob, that it would be used at the noon mass on Wednesday, our last day in Santiago. We got there an hour early to get good seats.
You can see from the pictures and video that it takes a team of eight to swing it. The botafumeiro itself is just under five feet tall and weighs over 100 pounds.
As Laurie said it is a special bit of pageantry on the camino—not to be missed.
We wrapped up our camino with a rest day in Santiago and are now heading for a few weeks on the northern Spanish coast, visiting towns that we passed through on our Camino del Norte trek. Maybe we will finally get that beach time that eluded us due to weather or schedule.