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Mass in Santiago

2020 Camino Guides

Jen Fawkes

Member
Camino(s) past & future
Walking 2017 August
We have friends who have just arrived in Santiago hoping to see the Botafumeiro at the cathedral mass. They were told that it was not being swung unless an amount of money was raised (300 euros). It did not occur today and they were told to try again tomorrow.
Is this something I have missed here on the forum and what is the experience of others in relation to this?
 

stevov

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
walked the portuguese way (senda littoral). from porto, vila do conde via viana and redondela Jun 17
This is what it says on the cathedral website -
The Botafumeiro operates during the following Solemnities:
- The Epiphany: 6 January
- Resurrection Sunday
- The Ascension of the Lord
- The Apparition of the Apostle-Clavijo: 23 May
- Pentecost
- The Martyrdom of Saint James: 25 July
- The Assumption of Mary: 15 August
-All Saints: 1 November
-Christ the King
-The Immaculate Conception: 8 December
-Christmas: 25 December
-Transfer of the remains of the Apostle: 30 December
The Botafumeiro can also operate for pilgrimages that have duly requested it from the Cathedral. To reserve the Botafumeiro write an email to: botafumeiro@catedraldesantiago.es.


I think in the latter cases there is a charge. The Pilgrims office might be able to indicate whether the required sum is being raised.

I attend the noon mass in June and it didn't fly ...but I saw it fly but at the 7.30 evening mass...so there might be a better chance of seeing it at night mass.
 

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Bradypus

Moderator
Staff member
Camino(s) past & future
Too many and too often!
The botafumeiro used to be used on a fixed schedule at least weekly because it was sponsored by a local trade association. Since that agreement ended there are only a small number of occasions when it is guaranteed to be in use. These are listed on the cathedral's own website http://www.catedraldesantiago.es/en/node/482 as someone has just posted above. In practice it is used far more often whenever a group or individual pays a large sum in advance to the cathedral. The cathedral does not normally publish the fact that it is to be in use for any particular mass.
 

Alan Pearce

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Aragones 2008, del Norte 2009, VdlP 2011, Ingles 2014, Camino de Madri 2015, Frances 2017
Unless you or a friend have paid to have the botafumeiro swung, there is no way of knowing if it will swing on a certain day, other than on the special church days as outlined above. The pilgrim office is the conduit for those wishing to have the botafumeiro swung, but does not release this information , the reason being [I have heard] that the cathedral authorities wish you to attend the service for the content of the mass, and not for the period of drama/circus/whatever that accompanies the botafumeiro.

If you wish to have the botafumeiro swung, this must be organised in advance, and the money deposited in to the cathedral bank account several days prior. Do NOT turn up on the day and try to have it swung then.

Some people seem to feel that their camino is not complete unless they have seen the botafumeiro. Yes, it is!

Alan

Be brave. Life is joyous.
 
Last edited:
Camino(s) past & future
cycled from Pamplona Sep 2015;Frances, walked from St Jean May/June 2017. Plans to walk Porto 2020
Thanks for the update. Although I think I am one of those in the "lucky" club - three pilgrim masses - three times the botafumeiro swings. Apart from the above feast days it used to swing on either the first or last Friday of the month - but I think I recall a post (from Ivar?) saying that this had ceased - maybe associated with the previous sponsorship.
I was told (but can't confirm) that tourist buses are doing their own "on board" collections - Euro 20 each passenger which their tour director then pays to the dean of the cathedral.

As a general note - the "fees" are used for the maintenance - restoration of the Cathedral (happy to have this confirmed or corrected). Cheers
 

t2andreo

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
C/F: 2013, 2014
C/M: 2016
C/P: 2015, 2017
C/I: 2018
Voluntario: 2014 - 2019
There is a post from Wise Pilgrim today (18/09/17) stating that the Botafumeiro will not be used until further notice due to renovations finally getting around to THAT area of the Cathedral. My assessment is that they waited until after the peak pilgrim season to schedule the necessary work.

I also assess that they will want to get that functionality back up and running ASAP. This is especially the case as there are major Catholic holidays coming up in December and January.

Normally, the botafumeiro is only "flown" for free on the schedule that was presented above. At other times, groups must "subscribe" or pay to have the botafumeiro used. But, as Wise Pilgrim also states, this necessarily means the renovations are almost done. I agree with this assessment. I would have done the same thing, as the botafumeiro is a major tourist draw.

What most people do not know is that the "tiraboleiros" who pull the ropes and provide for the care of the botafumeiro are lay persons (not clergy or seminarians) who must be paid to do this work. It is considered a very high honor to be among the small group of tiraboleiros. The appointment to serve as a tiraboleiro is usually passed down from father to son. So, there men must have jobs nearby that permit them to drop everything to attend to the botafumeiro, then return to their jobs. Coincidentally, several of the current tiraboleiros work at the Pilgrim Office.

The current botafumeiro in use dates from 1855, and was reconditioned in 2006.

Each time it is used, it must be cleaned and prepared for the next use.

In 2017, I understood the subscription cost was about €400 to schedule the botafumeiro. Generally, groups, like the Boy Scouts, police, military, social societies, religious societies from varying parishes, or even tour firms will pay to ensure the botafumeiro would be used when members of that group were in attendance.

Thus, the best time to see the botafumeiro, outside the specified list of dates and occasions mentioned above, is during July and August. This is when the number of groups peaks. At other times of the years, it is a hit and miss proposition.

You can read more about this and everything else relating to the Botafumeiro here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Botafumeiro

I hope this helps.
 

ScooterB

Member
Camino(s) past & future
April-May 2016 (Frances), June-July 2017 (Le Puy)
Interesting that lay people are the ones who make it swing, and yet this honored position is reserved for men only????? WTH?
 

MTtoCamino

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Francis SJPdP to Finnestere April(2014)
Interesting that lay people are the ones who make it swing, and yet this honored position is reserved for men only????? WTH?
I can't tell if you have seen it in action or not? I assume they have not thought about it but from watching them they need some weight pulling that rope. I know as fast as that big thing is moving weight, strength & timing is critical. I think if anyone ever got hit it would be horrible.

It is a very good question however something to ask
 

t2andreo

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
C/F: 2013, 2014
C/M: 2016
C/P: 2015, 2017
C/I: 2018
Voluntario: 2014 - 2019
Interesting that lay people are the ones who make it swing, and yet this honored position is reserved for men only????? WTH?
What can one say? It is the Catholic Church. They have their ways and means... It is their ritual and they make the rules. Perhaps, one day, it will change.
 

t2andreo

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
C/F: 2013, 2014
C/M: 2016
C/P: 2015, 2017
C/I: 2018
Voluntario: 2014 - 2019
It is true that the tiraboleiros work largely in Cathedral related jobs. I know that about four work in the Pilgrim Office. I have seen others on the Cathedral's maintenance staff.

But, the nature of the work limits how distant you can work from the Cathedral. The tiraboleiros must be available to "pull" the rope on a short notice. The Church is likely the only employer who would make the accommodation allowing these men to leave their jobs, attend to the Botafumeirol, then return to work.
 

MTtoCamino

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Francis SJPdP to Finnestere April(2014)
Good to get all the background info! I wonder how often they train new people & the duration. Being on call & close enough to respond, takes some dedication.
Can't say enough about showing respect when a person visits. Also another reason to learn Spanish, so you can get an understanding of what is happening inside any of the churches along the way.
Keith
 

Alan Pearce

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Aragones 2008, del Norte 2009, VdlP 2011, Ingles 2014, Camino de Madri 2015, Frances 2017
It is true that the tiraboleiros work largely in Cathedral related jobs. I know that about four work in the Pilgrim Office. I have seen others on the Cathedral's maintenance staff.

But, the nature of the work limits how distant you can work from the Cathedral. The tiraboleiros must be available to "pull" the rope on a short notice. The Church is likely the only employer who would make the accommodation allowing these men to leave their jobs, attend to the Botafumeirol, then return to work.
I was told in the pilgrim office that at least one of the reasons that the swinging of the botafumeiro is organised some days in advance is so that the tiraboleiros have a schedule of when they will be needed to be in the cathedral for the ceremony.

I am, as always, open to correction if needed!

Alan

Be brave. Life is joyous.
 

t2andreo

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
C/F: 2013, 2014
C/M: 2016
C/P: 2015, 2017
C/I: 2018
Voluntario: 2014 - 2019
You are correct. However, the staff person in the Pilgrim Office charged with booking botafumeiro use holds that information as tightly as any Catholic priest guards secrets from the confessional. Over four years, I have tried EVERYTHING to shake advance information loose...no joy. Very rarely when I am working there, I might glance an individual subscription form laying atop a desk, but nothing predictable.

This information is held close to prevent the word from getting out in advance, and the Holy Mass being turned into more of a tourist attraction than it already is.

On a daily basis, the only indicator that we have that the botafumeiro will be used at that noon Mass is when one or more of the staff fellows who are also tirabulerios, quietly absent themselves from their work in the office and head for the Cathedral. But this occurs at about 12:15 each day, on days the botafumeiro will be used. So, the advance notice is essentially useless.

I hope this helps.
 

Turga

Camino tortuga
Camino(s) past & future
CF (Aug/Sep 2017)
CF (Aug/Sep 2018)
How lucky I was. The botafumeiro was swung when I was there. I guess I must have been on a "free-ride".
 

canesvenatici

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
September 2017
I arrived in Santiago on Monday (18/09/17), went for evening Mass and the Botafumeiro was in action. From other pilgrims, it was also swung during noon Mass on Monday and Tuesday (19/09/17) as well. The tour guide from a city tour I went today told us that the city or local trade association used to pay for the Botafumeiro to be swung weekly during Friday evening Mass but this was stopped when the Cathedral increased the price to €400. During high season, it is almost a daily affair as groups often request for it. A little background tidbit, I was told during the tour that the Santiago de Compostela is the only cathedral with a Botafumeiro because of the smell that travelled with the pilgrims during the Middle Ages. The incense-burning was for a practical reason then.
 

t2andreo

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
C/F: 2013, 2014
C/M: 2016
C/P: 2015, 2017
C/I: 2018
Voluntario: 2014 - 2019
In 2015 and 2016 (IIRC) the local hotel and restaurant association subsidized botafumeiro use as an inducement to bring tourists into Santiago on Friday. Their logic (correct at the time) was that tourists would come to the 19:30 Mass to see the botafumeiro, then eat at their restaurants and overnight (or stay the weekend) in their hotels.

Well, this worked SO WELL, that both pilgrim and tourist numbers apparently increased to a level where this advertising ploy was determined no longer necessary. So, the association withdrew their financial support.

Of course, at the same time, there was a concomitant increase in Camino popularity, writ large. So, the association subsidy for botafumeiro use was likely a proximate influence. I am certain that some pilgrims heard that the botafumeiro was used every Friday at the 19:30 Mass, and may have timed their arrival and dwell time at Santiago around this fact.

If you are a pilgrim who has returned to Santiago annually over the past several years, as I do, you will have seen this paradigm unfold. Unless you book ahead for any weekend from Easter through October, you will likely find "no room at the inn." So, the association's strategy was a marketing success, at least viewed from their perspective.

Personally, I see the hotelier and restauranteur logic in doing as they have done. I cannot fault their actions or decisions in this matter.

After all, the Camino is about the journey NOT the destination, or the botafumeiro, per se. You can see that (the botafumeiro ritual) on You Tube until your eyeballs get numb...complete with the music.

To me, being able to see the botafumeiro used is a bonus, not an entitlement. It IS amazing to see it in person at least once. After that, it is like your second trip to a Disney theme park. There is an element of "been there, done that" about it, at least IMHO

I hope this helps.
 

DoubleD

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
Sept/Oct 2017
I was there last week, I think we got to Santiago on Oct 3rd (I think). We went to the mass at noon, and it wasn't swung then. One of the priests was celebrating his 100th birthday that day! We then went back inside the cathedral later that night, and realized after we were in, the 7:30 mass was going on. We lucked out, and were able to see the Botafumeiro in action. It was quite the site.
 

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