The Botafumeiro weighs 53 kilograms and measures 1.5 metres. Using a complex system of pulleys, it is swung from the central cupola of the cathedral, from which it hangs, towards the side aisles
The pilgrim mass is held at the cathedral's high altar every day at noon. In holy years, the number of pilgrim masses is increased due to the huge influx of attendees. It is therefore necessary to arrive well in advance.
At the start of the mass, as a special welcome to the faithful, a list is read of the pilgrims who have reached Santiago and visited the Pilgrim's Office in the past 24 hours. The list indicates the starting point of the pilgrimage and the pilgrims’ nationality or home province.
One of the most famous symbols of the cathedral is the Botafumeiro, which may be largest censer in the world. It is used at masses celebrated on key dates at the cathedral. It is also used every Friday (except for Good Friday) at the 7.30 p.m. mass, an homage to the pilgrim by the city of Santiago. It may also be used on other occasions upon request from pilgrim groups. The aroma of the incense has a powerful symbolic connection to prayer and spiritual purification: ‘May my prayer be set before you like incense’ (Psalm 141:2).
The Botafumeiro weighs 53 kilograms and measures 1.5 metres. Using a complex system of pulleys, it is swung from the central cupola of the cathedral, from which it hangs, towards the side aisles. It takes eight men, known as tiraboleiros, to move it. It is suspended from a height of 20 metres and can reach speeds up to 68 km/h.
The first written reference to this enormous censer appears in a 14th-century margin note to the Codex Calixtinus, where it is called Turibulum magnum. There have been several censers throughout history and in the early years, the ceremony did not proceed as seamlessly as it does today. For example, in 1610, the pilgrim Diego de Guzmán wrote in his diary of how the censer 'hit the upper vaults' as it swung. And on a few other occasions, the rope has even slipped out of the pulley.