The Botafumeiro is a famous thurible found in the Santiago de Compostela Cathedral. In the past, similar devices were used in large churches in Galicia; one is still used in the Tui Cathedral. Incense is burned in this swinging metal container, or "censer". The name "Botafumeiro" means "smoke expeller" in Galician.[1]


The Botafumeiro is suspended from a pulley mechanism in the dome on the roof of the church. The current pulley mechanism was installed in 1604.

The present Botafumeiro is made of an alloy of brass and bronze and is plated by a very thin 20 micrometre layer of silver. The current Botafumeiro was created by the gold and silversmith José Losada in 1851. It has a golden sheen.

Silver censer

The Santiago de Compostela Botafumeiro is one of the largest censers in the world,[2] weighing 80 kg[3] and measuring 1.60 m in height. It is normally on display in the library of the cathedral,[4][5] but for certain important religious occasions, it is brought to the floor of the cathedral and attached to a rope hung from the pulley mechanism.

There is another large thurible used in the other masses carried out in the cathedral, called "La Alcachofa" (literally, "The Artichoke")[6] or "La Repollo" (literally, "The Cabbage").[7] La Alcachofa is a silver-colored metal censer. It was created in 1971 by the sacred art artisans working under the craftsman Luis Molina Acedo.

The ropes typically last about 20 years before they have to be replaced. However, recently a thicker rope than usual was used, and the extra rubbing produced premature wear of the rope. Therefore, this thicker rope had to be replaced sooner than had been expected, in 2004.[8][9] Before 2004, the ropes were woven from hemp,[10] or a type of grass called esparto,[6] and made in Vigo, Spain. Since 2004, a rope made of synthetic material has been used.

Shovels are used to fill the Botafumeiro, or the Alcachofa, with about 40 kg of charcoal and incense.[citation needed] The thurible is tied to the rope with elaborate knots. The censer is pushed initially to start its motion. Eight red-robed tiraboleiros pull the ropes, producing increasingly large oscillations of the censer. The thurible's swings almost reach the ceiling of the transept. The incensory can reach speeds of 68 km/h as it dispenses thick clouds of incense.

At the top of the swing, the Botafumeiro reaches heights of 21 meters. It swings in a 65-meter arc between the Azabachería and Praterias doorways at the ends of the transept. The maximum angle achieved is about 82°. The maximum can be reached after about 17 cycles, and requires about 80 seconds of swinging.

It costs about 450 for each thurible "performance" at the cathedral. Although this is expensive, the swinging of the thurible is very popular with pilgrims, tourists and visitors.

The Botafumeiro produces large volumes of smoke.

The swinging Botafumeiro dispensing clouds of incense
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