You are currently viewing Botafumeiro Santiago | The largest censer in the world

Botafumeiro Santiago | The largest censer in the world

  • Post category:Events
  • Post author:

Botafumeiro is a particular name that recalls suggestions of the past, memories of ancient history, and places traveled by countless men of different languages ​​and cultures. But what is Botafumeiro Santiago? It is the largest censer in the world, kept inside one of the most important places of worship in the Christian West since the Middle Ages: the Sanctuary Santiago de Compostela.

Today we want to tell you about its history, the cult, and the place that keeps this great accessory. Millions of pilgrims travel to Santiago de Compostela annually to admire it swinging vertiginously over their heads. Read on and enjoy this journey!

The origins of the Sanctuary of Botagumeiro Compostela

The Sanctuary of Santiago de Compostela is one of the most famous pilgrimage destinations in the world. It is located in Spain in the homonymous capital city of Galicia. A place considered an important center of Christianity. Ancient legends hover over this place that identified it as where the souls of the deceased gathered to embark on the path to cross the sea and follow the setting sun.

In addition to these evocative tales, Santiago de Compostela is famous for its cathedral, the mother church of the archdiocese of Santiago de Compostela, and one of the most critical sanctuaries in the world.

Representation of Botafumeiro Santiago

botafumeiro santiago

Source: Wikipedia

What is the Botafumeiro Santiago?

Let’s get to the point now and discover the Botafumeiro Santiago up close. It is one of the most important and famous symbols of the Cathedral. The censer is used during solemn masses and special celebrations during the Holy Year. As anticipated, it is one of the world’s centers censers, but its function is that of any other censer.

This element is pervasive in many religions. Since ancient times it has been believed that the fumes released by incense were very welcome to the gods during religious celebrations. In addition, the smell was intended to purify the air, to remove spiritual negativity. Censers are used differently in religious ceremonies of every age and culture. Some use it to perfume, others to heal, r purify and protect. In the Catholic Christian liturgy, incense is burned to symbolize prayer and reverence for God.

The Botafumeiro Santiago was built in brass and silver; it is 1.60 cm high and weighs 50 kg. When filled with incense and charcoal, it can even exceed 100 kg. During the celebrations, it is suspended at the height of 20 meters. 

History of the Botafumeiro Santiago

The Botafumeiro has a history of its use and has changed over time. According to the Callistine Code, initially, it was not precisely a censer used for ceremonies; it was simply a large vessel in which incense was burned to cover the smell of the pilgrims who flocked to the cathedral in search of shelter.

In the 16th century, King Louis XI of France donated the cathedral, leading to the censer’s construction in 1554. At that time, it was a giant,e silver piñata, which was then stolen by Napoleonic troops. The current Botafumeiro dates back to 1851; it was made of brass and then covered with silver.

Over the centuries, numerous incidents have occurred during which the censer came off the ropes, with quite dramatic consequences. We remember the most well-known incident,  25 July 1499, in the presence of the Infanta Catalina, future Catherine of Aragon. On that date t, the censer was released from the ropes and flew against the door of the Praterías square, banging violently. Another happened in 1622 when the rope that held it broke and fell to the floor. More recently, an overly curious pilgrim who got too close to the center found himself with fractured ribs and a nose.

Ceremonies with the Botafumeiro

Until 1 January 2017, the thurible was used regularly during the mass dedicated to pilgrims on Friday evenings at 19.30. Today, however, this concession has been revoked until further notice. To see the Botafumeiro in motion, it is necessary to visit the Cathedral on the days dedicated to official celebrations :

  • The Feast of the Magi
  • Pentecost
  • The day of Jesus’ Ascension into heaven
  • The Anniversary of the Battle of Clavijo
  • The feast of San Giacomo
  • The Assumption of Mary into Heaven
  • The feast of All Saints
  • The Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary
  • Christmas
  • The commemoration of the translation of the relics of the Holy Apostle James

Are the remains of James of Zebedee inside the crypt of Batumiero Compostela?

Inside its crypt are kept the remains of the apostle James of Zebedee, also known as James the Greater, patron saint of Spain, which in Spanish translates as Santiago. According to the Golden Legend, St. James the Greater, after the death of Jesus, reached France and Spain with his work of evangelization up to Galicia.

The term Compostela instead derives from Campus Stellae or the field of the star like those seen by the hermit Pelagius on Mount Liberon, which discovered the tomb of San Giacomo. According to other opinions, the term derives from Campos Tellum, or burial ground, and refers to the burial place of the Saint.

The saint’s tomb was covered in the 9th century, while in 1075, work began to build the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela. It was a very long construction, which continued slowly over time and was gradually enriched with numerous relics. Also, for t, b, it became the final stage of the best-known pilgrimage of faith since the Middle Ages.

You might also want to know.

The Botafumeiro in Santiago de Compostela is held on July 25 on the Martyrdom Day of Santiago every year. Also, it will be fully functional during 11 holidays, including Christmas and Mary’s ascension. Below, you can find three main curiosities about Botafumeiro Santiago.

1. What is Santiago de Compostela?

Santiago de Compostela is a Christian city in northwestern Spain (94,339 inhabitants in 2008), in the province of La Coruña, capital of Galicia, located 264 m above sea level on an isolated knoll.

3. How do you earn a Compostela?

The Compostela can be earned only by those who have made the pilgrimage with a Christian purpose: “devotions affect, voti vel pietatis causa” (motivated by devotion, vows, or mercy) and only to those who have arrived at the Apostle’s Tomb, having traveled at least the last 100 kilometers on foot or horseback.

4. Where does the Way of St. James begin?

The Way of Saint James begins in Porto, Spain, and ends in Valencia, on the Spanish border, along 150 kilometers that run parallel to the ocean and the Minho River. If, on the other hand, you want to continue to Santiago de Compostela, you will cover a total of 270 km in 13 days on foot or four days by bike.


The Botafumeiro Santiago is an example of grandeur that has enchanted millions of pilgrims for generations with its elegant and majestic movement. It is truly a sight to see it in action inside the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela.