Seeing the Botafumeiro Fly

The use of a large censer or botafumeiro (loosely 'smoke spitter') in Santiago's cathedral dates from the 13th century, a time when masking the odours of road-weary pilgrims who slept and cooked inside the cathedral was more than a mere ceremonial act. Today the cathedral has two botafumeiros, one made in 1851 of silver-plated brass, the other a 1971 silver replica. Each weighs up to 100kg when filled with coal and incense, and attains a speed of 68km/h as it swings high over the centre of the cathedral, propelled by eight men tugging a system of pulleys, and reaches an almost-horizontal angle of 82° from vertical.

These days the botafumeiro flies only on certain religious feast days (listed at, or at the end of a Mass if a pilgrimage group donates €300. The spectacle always attracts large numbers of people to the cathedral. When the botafumeiros are not in action, you can see them in the Museo da Catedral.

Exploring Around the Cathedral

The cathedral is surrounded by handsome plazas that invite you to wander through them.