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The Botafumeiro technical details

Bert45

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I know that if you ask the internet for information you will get answers that conflict with each other. The cathedral website does not state how much charcoal is used in the Botafumeiro [Bfo from now on, it's easier to type), and I would have no problem if everybody said "some charcoal is put into the Botafumeiro", but several sites and blogs do give a figure. I have an e-friend who has been blogging his 2013 Camino and he has read somewhere that they put 80 pounds of charcoal into the Bfo and put that in his blog. I believe that this is nonsense, but I cannot convince him to change it. I have read in Spanish Wiki that they put 400 grams of charcoal into the Bfo. (Obviously, nobody weighs it; it's an estimate.) I believe that this has been converted to 0.40 kg, misread as 40 kg, and converted to 88 pounds, and rounded down to 80 pounds. English Wiki says "about 40 kg". I found over 400 results with <"botafumeiro" "40 kg" "charcoal"> Over 2000 results with <"botafumeiro" "400" "carbón" -"40 kg">. I have seen videos where you can see that a scoop of hot charcoal is placed in the Bfo. I have asked the Cathedral, but not had a reply. Apart from getting a certificate from the Cathedral, what can I do? Don't start looking for the weight of the Bfo!
 
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Kathar1na

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Don't start looking for the weight of the Bfo!
I didn't!

What can I do?

It's not a question of weight (mass) but a question of volume. Does a volume of charcoal, weighing 40 kg, density not yet looked up, fit into a container of the form of the Bfo that is 1m 60 cm high (looked it up) from top to bottom.

Once you know whether this much charcoal fits into a container of this form or not, you can take it from there ... ☺️
 

Kathar1na

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the form of the Bfo that is 1m 60 cm high (looked it up) from top to bottom.
Or 1,50 cm high in total: the body of the container is 94 cm high, widest diameter of the container is 59 cm, the upper chain section is 56 cm high. And judging by the videos, they don't fill the lower half of the container up to the brim.
 

Bert45

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I can just about cope with posting a question on this forum. The notion of using FB to find a tiroboleiro is way beyond my capabilities. [Perhaps that was a joke?] I did a very rough back-of-a-fag-packet calculation of the volume of charcoal v volume of Bfo question and it worked out that 40 kg could fit in quite easily, I worked out the volume of a cylinder 94 cm high 30 cm in radius = 265,779 cm³. The figure for the density of charcoal varies with the wood, but the highest figure I've seen is 0.22 g/cm³. So the lowest volume of 40 kg would be 181,818 cm³. (Please check). But consider how long it would take to put 40 kg (even 10 kg) of hot, burning charcoal into the Bfo, without spilling any onto the fine carpet below. It has to be burning when the charcoal is put into the Bfo. The congregation could not be asked to wait while the mass of 40 kg is lit. And just think how long 40 kg of charcoal would burn for, while the swinging of the botafumeiro takes about 5 minutes. We've seen the videos where one of the tiroboleiros puts one scoopful of charcoal into the Bfo. I not only wonder at the intransigence of my e-friend but at the thoughtlessness of all the people who stick 40 kg onto their websites and blogs without giving it a moment's thought.
 
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Bert45

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I didn't!
I meant don't look up the weight of the Bfo because you will find answers from 50 kg to 160 kg! (Wikipedia and aleteia.org). The figure of 160 kg is stated to include the weight of charcoal added. Even without the charcoal you can find figures from 53 kg to 62 kg. So some people are thinking they add 100 kg of charcoal to the Bfo!
Did you know that the Bfo swings 17 times? (allegedly) I'm not sure if a swing from north to south and back again counts as one swing or two. I realise I'm changing the subject, but just showing what details you can find on the internet.
 
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Flog

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From close quarters, you can actually hear the charcoals rattling in the thurible. I would doubt there's more than a kilo or two in it, but that is a pure guess.. the burning of the incense is intense but short. It really does require the strength of eight men to swing it to its full height and it's quite exhausting, what with the overall weight of the ropes and the pulley mechanism, besides the thurible..
 
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I searched Facebook for tiroboleiro, and came up with zero results.
I didn't mean to search directly. Post a query and then hope the seven degrees of separation will work its magic (e.g., someone knows Martin Sheen who contacts his son Emilio who puts you in touch with the tiroboleiero who lent him his robe).

I'm not on Facebook so I'm not sure how to do this but I've read stories where this sort of stuff happens.
 

Kathar1na

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The dimensions of the big one are shown below. The blue lines mark the lower part where the charcoal and incense are placed. It is nearly a kind of half sphere - cylinder works, too ☺️. Just wondering: Is this the one they use all the time? I understand that there is a smaller replica called La Alcachofa?
(Click to enlarge)
Botafumeiro.jpg
 
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Flog

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Did you know that the Bfo swings 17 times? (allegedly) I'm not sure if a swing from north to south and back again counts as one swing or two.
About 17 pulls on the ropes but it swings many more times than that..
 

Chenahusky

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The amount of Incense that 40kg of charcoal would burn, would cost a small fortune. It doesn't take a lot of charcoal to burn incense. The average thurible at Mass takes only a relatively small amount, the incense then being added by the spoonful, not the shovelful. A thurible would be expected to last for a Mass. If it didn't the altar server is swinging it too much. Just keep it alight.
The Botafumeiro only has to last a few minutes. My own thoughts are that the Cathedral is using less Incense than they used to use. The amount of smoke, from my own observations, appears to have grown less over the years. So I would imagine that 400gms of Charcoal, seems more likely.
 
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Good thread! Thanks for this.

Here is another thought: Does anyone here know how often the overhead pulley+fulcrum structure is subjected to a technical inspection for safety?
 

Bert45

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Good thread! Thanks for this.

Here is another thought: Does anyone here know how often the overhead pulley+fulcrum structure is subjected to a technical inspection for safety?
You're welcome!
I don't know how often any part of the mechanism is checked, but you can find all this on Wikipedia:
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. Before 2004, the ropes were woven from hemp, or a type of grass called esparto, and made in Vigo, Spain. Since 2004, a rope made of synthetic material has been used.
and
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.
which would imply that there are more than 17 swings as it cannot be stopped dead when it has reached the maximum. Other sites I have read cite "17 swings" altogether.
There are reports of a couple of accidents when the rope broke, sending the Bfo through a window:
One of the most renowned accidents took place during a visit of Princess Catherine of Aragon. She was on a journey to marry the heir to the English throne in 1499 and stopped by the cathedral in Santiago de Compostela. While it was being swung, the Botafumeiro flew out of the cathedral through the Platerias high window. No one was reported to have been injured on this occasion.
The ropes and other devices securing the Botafumeiro have also failed; on May 23, 1622, and more recently in 1925 and July 1937. In 1622, the Botafumeiro fell at the feet of the tiraboleiros. In July 1937, the cords holding the Botafumeiro failed again, and hot coals were spilled onto the floor.


I find this, even the recent cases, hard to believe. [1499 and 1622 could be legends, and they were with the Bfo stolen by the French in 1809.] The Bfo would surely have been damaged if it fell from a height. It could have been repaired, but I don't see how you could make an "invisible repair" on something like the Bfo.
 

Bert45

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The dimensions of the big one are shown below. The blue lines mark the lower part where the charcoal and incense are placed. It is nearly a kind of half sphere - cylinder works, too ☺️. Just wondering: Is this the one they use all the time? I understand that there is a smaller replica called La Alcachofa?
(Click to enlarge)
View attachment 114628
So the volume of the part between the blue lines would be rather less than half the volume I calculated. Half the volume would be 132,890 cm³. So 40 kg would not fit in there. That's a good argument for my e-friend. But it could hold somewhere in the region of 25 kg. (I've not calculated that, it's just an estimate.)

Yes, the Alcachofa is mentioned by Wiki:
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.
You can find this on several sites, but the words are identical, so copy and paste has been used, with no checking, I should think. However, it is confirmed, in part, on the Cathedral's website:
Throughout history there have been several thuribles; today there are two; one made from brass dating from 1851 by José Losada, which substituted the one stolen during the French occupation and which is the one that is used normally. The second Botafumeiro is a replica in silver of the previous one and was given to the Apostle by the Provisional Second-Lieutenants in 1971. It is only placed in the cathedral’s transept when it is in use, and it is kept in the Chapter Library.
The only detail confirmed is the date, 1971.
 

Bert45

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The dimensions of the big one are shown below. The blue lines mark the lower part where the charcoal and incense are placed. It is nearly a kind of half sphere - cylinder works, too ☺️. Just wondering: Is this the one they use all the time? I understand that there is a smaller replica called La Alcachofa?
(Click to enlarge)
View attachment 114628
The cathedral website says the Bfo "measures 1.50 metres". [Wiki says 1.60 m.] If that figure (1.50) is right, then the diameter is 92 cm (approx). I'll have to start again with the abacus. It's past my bedtime. I'll look again tomorrow (that's today, actually).
 

Kathar1na

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I find this, even the recent cases, hard to believe. [1499 and 1622 could be legends, and they were with the Bfo stolen by the French in 1809.] The Bfo would surely have been damaged if it fell from a height. It could have been repaired, but I don't see how you could make an "invisible repair" on something like the Bfo.
I don't quite understand why you find this hard to believe? We don't know how many Botafumeiros existed, what they looked like, what happened to them in the end.

The only thing we know with some certainty is that it was known that the Cathedral had exceptionally large censors in use for a very long time. And that they have two now, one created in 1851 and one in 1971. They look identical (so not one smaller than the other, as some websites want to make me believe) but their metal composition is different which may explain the discrepancy in weight quoted by authors and bloggers who copy whatever they find wherever.

The 1851 model was famously renovated in a Madrid workshop at the beginning of this century. Earlier, says an article in Correo Gallegos, it was local craftsmen from Santiago who touched up the censer when it had become necessary. The article also says that during this last restoration, the 1851 Botafumeiro was coated with a "layer of silver of 20 microns", applied through electrolysis. One brave author or blogger writes that this made the 1851 Botafumeiro noticeably heavier and indicates by how many kilograms but I am not going to waste yet another old envelope to work out how plausible that claim is. 😇
 
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Kathar1na

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@Bert45, this was yet another unusual and interesting topic to explore.

However, I fear you may have to live with human imperfection and human lack of curiosity. If you have to continue to try to convince someone that 40 kg of coal in whatever manifestation is not loaded into the Bfo after you had said: "Hold on, is this even possible and does this even make sense and how does this actually work - coal and incense and how is it done in practical terms?" you are already on the path to a lost cause.

I used to have an absolute belief in the power of education. No longer. We have to accept that some people just cannot be convinced by rational arguments and it is wise to give up on them at one point and concentrate on others or other things.
 

Flog

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I used to have an absolute belief in the power of education. No longer. We have to accept that some people just cannot be convinced by rational arguments and it is wise to give up on them at one point and concentrate on others or other things.

This statement resonates with me at this moment in time, not regarding this topic but something else entirely.. but it gave me pause for thought, thank you.. 🙂
 

Doughnut NZ

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But it could hold somewhere in the region of 25 kg. (I've not calculated that, it's just an estimate.)
I think that your estimate is reasonable, however you are ignoring the charcoal size.

If you filled the space with charcoal dust then you may be able to fit 25kg in but charcoal dust is highly combustible and toxic if breathed in.

My guess is that they use charcoal pieces of a reasonable size, and when they do that and arrange them randomly then you would fit much less in. Random packing volume is a whole research area of its own and according to this https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Random_close_pack Wikipedia article the maximum estimated efficiency when packing spheres is 64%.

Without knowing the shape and size of the charcoal used it is hard to estimate the efficiency but a useful rule of thumb that would allow space for oxygen to get in would be (maybe) 50% and so your 25 kg estimate becomes 12.5 kg.
 

Kathar1na

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charcoal dust is highly combustible
Another thing I had not been aware of (or had forgotten), thanks for mentioning this.

Among the useful and unexpected outcomes of this thread for me: they teach you in physics class at school about density but not about bulk density, poured density, tapped density, volumetric density (some of these may be synonyms) - all important in real life, depending on whether you work with this or not, obviously.

I never thought about how and when the coal gets into the censer, how it is kept going, and so on. Good to have ex-altar boys on the forum and others with solid knowledge and/or experience. ☺️

I have watched several hour-long TV broadcasts of mass at the Santiago Cathedral over the years, with excellent close-ups of Botafumeiro and tiraboleiros. I had seen bishops and popes putting a bit of incense into the container but never noticed a tiraboleiro putting anything into it. I've watched Youtube again yesterday and I noticed for the first time that one of the tiraboleiros holds a tool that looks like a kind of giant tongs and a shallow container with coal/charcoal in it and how he puts it into the Botafumeiro that appears to be empty otherwise.
 
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One of the most renowned accidents took place during a visit of Princess Catherine of Aragon. She was on a journey to marry the heir to the English throne in 1499 and stopped by the cathedral in Santiago de Compostela. While it was being swung, the Botafumeiro flew out of the cathedral through the Platerias high window. No one was reported to have been injured on this occasion.
The ropes and other devices securing the Botafumeiro have also failed; on May 23, 1622, and more recently in 1925 and July 1937. In 1622, the Botafumeiro fell at the feet of the tiraboleiros. In July 1937, the cords holding the Botafumeiro failed again, and hot coals were spilled onto the floor.
Ooops.
Watching the Botafumeiro swing on the webcam is a very interesting experience, because the lateral view webcam is right in line with the swinging. So the Bfo comes straight at the camera - strangely it almost seems like in slo-mo. I am sure I am not the only one who has wondered what would happen in the event of a rope failure. Coals on the floor seem like the least dire alternative.
But would it break through the window? That's hard to imagine, like a basketball going through a hoop far away.
Maybe.
Whatever happened it would have been both scary and embarrassing, depending on who you were.

OK more importantly, the numbers:

So the formula for the volume of a hemisphere is as follows:
V = V(sphere)/2 , V = 2/3 * π * r³ .
For a 30 cm radius we get:
56548.66 cubic cm

Say they use half of that, and you get 28,274.33 CC.
This website tells me that 1CC of charcoal weights .21gm, and calculates the weight of 28,274.33 CC to be 5.88kg, or 12.97lb.

That would be on the high end because they are putting in discrete coals, so there will be plenty of air space, say 33% (I'm just guessing here and have no idea if that is accurate); that brings down the amount as follows:
33% of 5.88 = 1.96
5.88-1.96=3.92

So 4 kilos is my rough guess. Which seems like a lot.

And I just saw your post, @Doughnut NZ, so make that 50%, even easier:
5.88/2=2.94

So...between 3 and 4 kilos.
It still seems like a lot.
 
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Doughnut NZ

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I've watched Youtube again yesterday and I noticed for the first time that one of the tiraboleiros holds a tool that looks like a kind of giant tongs and a shallow container with coal/charcoal in it and how he puts it into the Botafumeiro that appears to be empty otherwise.
Yes, that is very important. If they don't light the charcoal in the Btf then it will already be alight and would be in yet another (smaller) container.
 

Kathar1na

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@VNwalking, of all the information and numbers that you can find on the internet about the "Bfo", such as weight, speed, age, purpose, height with the chains included, height without the chains included, or diameter, one number is absent: the capacity of the container in litres. Wouldn't it be interesting to know for comparison?

I conclude that the capacity/volume is of no importance. The Bfo needs to look big and impressive even when only a tiny volume is needed to hold incense and burning material. Or does it need to be large and heavy in order to swing so impressively, so high and so fast? Ah, the many mysteries of physics ...
 
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Wouldn't it be interesting to know for comparison?
Maybe they want that to be a mystery, so that people can say ridiculous but impressive things like "They put 80 pounds of charcoal into the Bfo..."
Anyway what would we talk about if they made it easy?🙃

Or does it need to be large and heavy in order to swing so impressively, so high and so fast? Ah, the many mysteries of physics ...
I imagine that it's heavy enough to swing just fine all by itself, sans charcoal.
 

Kathar1na

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BTW, I once retrieved the actual report, written by a travel companion of Catherine of Aragon on her way to getting married in England, where the incident of the botafumeiro coming off the rope is mentioned. I didn't make a note of it and don't have a link. As I remember it, she was in town when it happened but not at the cathedral when it happened. And whether it really flew through a window and landed outside on the square is also a bit doubtful, question of flight path and position of windows but my memory is vague. And mention this to people and they will tell you that they don't care, they like the story just the way it is being told. ☺️

Oh, and I love this version: It is said that when Catherine of Aragon stopped by for mass on her way to England to marry Henry VIII, the botafumeiro flew free of its ropes and crashed through the great stained-glass window.

It may well be said so but we know for certain that Catherine was on her way to marry Arthur and not Henry. She married Henry after Arthur's death. And did this person ever even look at the windows of the transept?
 
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Kathar1na

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One of the most renowned accidents took place during a visit of Princess Catherine of Aragon. She was on a journey to marry the heir to the English throne in 1499 and stopped by the cathedral in Santiago de Compostela.
I know that this has become a standard story now and you can find this narrative in Wikipedia, blogs, guidebooks and even scholarly articles and books.

Bit of a problem here with time and space though.

Catherine left the Alhambra in Granada for the port of Coruña on 21 May 1501, eventually left Coruña on 27 September 1501, arrived in Plymouth on 2 October 1501, and got married to Arthur on 14 November 1501.

My memory is vague but as far as I remember the accident happened during a different visit of Catherine in Santiago in 1499.
 
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Chenahusky

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If you look at this YouTube video filmed with a GoPro camera, from about 11 secs. to 14 secs. you will see the hot coals being loaded and the incense added. The shot then gives you a glimpse of the inside of the Botafumeria. Try playback speed of 1/4 speed, so you get a longer view.

 

David Tallan

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Ooops.
Watching the Botafumeiro swing on the webcam is a very interesting experience, because the lateral view webcam is right in line with the swinging. So the Bfo comes straight at the camera - strangely it almost seems like in slo-mo. I am sure I am not the only one who has wondered what would happen in the event of a rope failure. Coals on the floor seem like the least dire alternative.
But would it break through the window? That's hard to imagine, like a basketball going through a hoop far away.
Maybe.
Whatever happened it would have been both scary and embarrassing, depending on who you were.

OK more importantly, the numbers:

So the formula for the volume of a hemisphere is as follows:
V = V(sphere)/2 , V = 2/3 * π * r³ .
For a 30 cm radius we get:
56548.66 cubic cm

Say they use half of that, and you get 28,274.33 CC.
This website tells me that 1CC of charcoal weights .21gm, and calculates the weight of 28,274.33 CC to be 5.88kg, or 12.97lb.

That would be on the high end because they are putting in discrete coals, so there will be plenty of air space, say 33% (I'm just guessing here and have no idea if that is accurate); that brings down the amount as follows:
33% of 5.88 = 1.96
5.88-1.96=3.92

So 4 kilos is my rough guess. Which seems like a lot.

And I just saw your post, @Doughnut NZ, so make that 50%, even easier:
5.88/2=2.94

So...between 3 and 4 kilos.
It still seems like a lot.
That's assuming that the available space is filled with charcoal. It is possible that:
- some incense is also included
- It is not filled entirely to the brim
- space is left for airflow

Rather than doing all the calculations on the volume of the Botafumeiro, perhaps it is best to go back to the video evidence:

"I have seen videos where you can see that a scoop of hot charcoal is placed in the Bfo." [Note: "a scoop", not "many scoops".]

Perhaps it might be more productive to consider the volume of the scoop and how much charcoal it is likely to contain. That might bring you closer to the 400g from the Spanish wiki.

Show the videos to whomever is suggesting that 40kg are going into the Botafumeiro and ask thenm to consider the likelihood that the scoop is conveying 40kg of charcoal.
 

mikebet

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That video more or less confirms the reasonable assumption that only enough charcoal to cover the bottom of the vessel one layer thick is sufficient to get the incense smoking for the very short duration of the ceremony. If it's anything more than a half kilo or even less it would be very surprising. But the incense itself interests me. Is it pine resin (what the Aztecs called copal) or something else?
 
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Chenahusky

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That video more or less confirms the reasonable assumption that only enough charcoal to cover the bottom of the vessel one layer thick is sufficient to get the incense smoking for the very short duration of the ceremony. If it's anything more than a half kilo or even less it would be very surprising. But the incense itself interests me. Is it pine resin (what the Aztecs called copal) or something else?
Incense or Frankinsence is a tree resin from the Boswellia tree, grown in the Middle East. It is used in a number of religions and can often be blended to get different smells. Try, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frankincense
 

RRat

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I know that if you ask the internet for information you will get answers that conflict with each other. The cathedral website does not state how much charcoal is used in the Botafumeiro [Bfo from now on, it's easier to type), and I would have no problem if everybody said "some charcoal is put into the Botafumeiro", but several sites and blogs do give a figure. I have an e-friend who has been blogging his 2013 Camino and he has read somewhere that they put 80 pounds of charcoal into the Bfo and put that in his blog. I believe that this is nonsense, but I cannot convince him to change it. I have read in Spanish Wiki that they put 400 grams of charcoal into the Bfo. (Obviously, nobody weighs it; it's an estimate.) I believe that this has been converted to 0.40 kg, misread as 40 kg, and converted to 88 pounds, and rounded down to 80 pounds. English Wiki says "about 40 kg". I found over 400 results with <"botafumeiro" "40 kg" "charcoal"> Over 2000 results with <"botafumeiro" "400" "carbón" -"40 kg">. I have seen videos where you can see that a scoop of hot charcoal is placed in the Bfo. I have asked the Cathedral, but not had a reply. Apart from getting a certificate from the Cathedral, what can I do? Don't start looking for the weight of the Bfo!
If you want to see it swing from left to right, sit facing the altar. If you want to experience it swinging over your head, sit facing the side of the altar as far forward as possible. Don't need to know the measurement or amount of charcoal.
 

PMSLAW

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I will add a dimension or two to the botaconfusion discussion. What it is capable of holding in charcoal is unconnected to what it is called upon to hold.
What it is called upon to hold in current usage does not necessarily mirror what it was called upon to hold in ages past and in various ceremonial settings.
Charcoal is compressible. As an altar boy I recall the tight packed discs of charcoal we used that had a star impression on the top. They were also chemically treated to ignite at the touch of a match.
Personally, I’m pretty comfortable with it is capable of holding up to 40kg.
 
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If you want to experience it swinging over your head, sit facing the side of the altar as far forward as possible. Don't need to know the measurement or amount of charcoal.
Am I the only one who has to surpress the urge to duck when it's approaching? Regardless of the amount of charcoal in there, it's a sight.
 
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Chenahusky

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I will add a dimension or two to the botaconfusion discussion. What it is capable of holding in charcoal is unconnected to what it is called upon to hold.
What it is called upon to hold in current usage does not necessarily mirror what it was called upon to hold in ages past and in various ceremonial settings.
Charcoal is compressible. As an altar boy I recall the tight packed discs of charcoal we used that had a star impression on the top. They were also chemically treated to ignite at the touch of a match.
Personally, I’m pretty comfortable with it is capable of holding up to 40kg.
Out of curiosity, I weighed a charcoal incense disk. A bit over 6 grammes. For 40Kgs I calculated you would need 6154 disks. Seems a lot to me!
 

Jeff Robinson

Member
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I know that if you ask the internet for information you will get answers that conflict with each other. The cathedral website does not state how much charcoal is used in the Botafumeiro [Bfo from now on, it's easier to type), and I would have no problem if everybody said "some charcoal is put into the Botafumeiro", but several sites and blogs do give a figure. I have an e-friend who has been blogging his 2013 Camino and he has read somewhere that they put 80 pounds of charcoal into the Bfo and put that in his blog. I believe that this is nonsense, but I cannot convince him to change it. I have read in Spanish Wiki that they put 400 grams of charcoal into the Bfo. (Obviously, nobody weighs it; it's an estimate.) I believe that this has been converted to 0.40 kg, misread as 40 kg, and converted to 88 pounds, and rounded down to 80 pounds. English Wiki says "about 40 kg". I found over 400 results with <"botafumeiro" "40 kg" "charcoal"> Over 2000 results with <"botafumeiro" "400" "carbón" -"40 kg">. I have seen videos where you can see that a scoop of hot charcoal is placed in the Bfo. I have asked the Cathedral, but not had a reply. Apart from getting a certificate from the Cathedral, what can I do? Don't start looking for the weight of the Bfo!
I can't tell you the weight or volume but I can tell you this. As a volunteer at the pilgrim office, I was invited to attend a pilgrim mass and receive a certificate from the church. The group of volunteers is typically seated inside the banister. There is probably a better name for that area but, not being Catholic I don't know what it is. I happened to be seated at the end of the bench nearest the entry point or gate through the banister. I happened to be wearing shorts and felt the heat as a priest entered the gate. Not because I was feeling guilty about anything but because he was carrying the glowing incense you referred to as charcoal. It was in a tray attached to the end of a two or three-foot rod which placed the tray near the floor. Now to your question of "How much?" I could plainly see it and the size of the tray was about that of a small dustpan. I would guess that the amount of incense used would fit into a medium-sized Glad Baggie, a far cry from the poundage your friend was claiming!
 

Kathar1na

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I can't tell you the weight or volume but I can tell you this
Even though you didn't use the right terminology all the time 😉, you described it really well, and you were there and watched it from nearby. Thank you!

In contrast to this, I guess that many people cannot see and do not notice what is going on, and that is why they are ready to believe, what with all the smoke coming out of the Botafumeiro, that there is a ton (ok: 40 kg) of coal in it. The choreography of the three tiraboleiros is impressive. One brings the incense for priest or bishop, one brings the coal, one holds the lid of the open botafumeiro. It is over in seconds.

charcoal. It was in a tray attached to the end of a two or three-foot rod
Here's an attempt at a screenshot where this can be seen, and that's all the coal that gets added:
Carbon.jpg
 
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PMSLAW

Recovering (retired) Lawyer
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So the volume of the part between the blue lines would be rather less than half the volume I calculated. Half the volume would be 132,890 cm³. So 40 kg would not fit in there. That's a good argument for my e-friend. But it could hold somewhere in the region of 25 kg. (I've not calculated that, it's just an estimate.)

Yes, the Alcachofa is mentioned by Wiki:
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.
You can find this on several sites, but the words are identical, so copy and paste has been used, with no checking, I should think. However, it is confirmed, in part, on the Cathedral's website:
Throughout history there have been several thuribles; today there are two; one made from brass dating from 1851 by José Losada, which substituted the one stolen during the French occupation and which is the one that is used normally. The second Botafumeiro is a replica in silver of the previous one and was given to the Apostle by the Provisional Second-Lieutenants in 1971. It is only placed in the cathedral’s transept when it is in use, and it is kept in the Chapter Library.
The only detail confirmed is the date, 1971.
But charcoal comes in many forms. Here, for example, are compressed charcoal logs. Even though they are hollow, a 20 pound box only occupies 14,867 cubic centimeters.

 
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Bert45

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The article also says that during this last restoration, the 1851 Botafumeiro was coated with a "layer of silver of 20 microns", applied through electrolysis. One brave author or blogger writes that this made the 1851 Botafumeiro noticeably heavier and indicates by how many kilograms but I am not going to waste yet another old envelope to work out how plausible that claim is. 😇
Not plausible at all. There is a website (translatiomedia.com) that claims: "The total weight was 54 kilos. In 2006, Luis Molina Acebo restored the Botafumeiro, adding a silver bath that increased its weight to 62 kilos." (translated from Spanish)
The density of silver is 10.5 g/cm³. Several sites say that the silver plating is 20 micrometres thick. i.e. 0.002 cm. Eight kilograms of silver would cover an area of 380,952.38 square centimetres, or 38.1 square metres. I don't think that the Botafumeiro is that big in surface area. The cathedral website says that the Botafumeiro weighs 53 kg.
Btw, this site agrees that the diameter of the Bfo is 59 cm, but gives the height as 1.5 m.
 

Bert45

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I have realised that the height of 1.5 or 1.6 metres is achieved when the Bfo is suspended from the rope, i.e. it includes the small cap and ring and the chains holding up the "business part" of the Bfo. So Katha1na's diagram is correct. The business part of the Bfo is only 94 cm from top to bottom. The base, where the charcoal is placed has a radius of 29.5 cm and a depth of about the same, so a volume of 53,768 cc or nearly 5.4 litres. Given a density of 0.22 g/cc the Bfo could hold 11, 830 kg at the most, about 26 lb. But all this is irrelevant, as the video kindly posted by Chenahusky shows that the Bfo is nowhere near filled with charcoal. There is no reason I can think of why, even in ancient times, they would want to fill the Bfo with charcoal, which would burn for hours. Ah! but they wanted the incense to burn for hours to mask the smell of the unwashed. This story is largely a myth. At best it would be a side effect. The clergy would be far enough away from the pilgrims so as not to smell them. "The smoke of incense is symbolic of sanctification and purification. It also symbolizes the prayers of the faithful. It is an outward sign of spiritual realities, which is why it has its place in Christian liturgy." [goodcatholic.com]
 

Kathar1na

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The myth that the Botafumeiro was used to mask the smell of the unwashed is a good 150 years old. People just love it and it will live forever. The main culprit is Antonio Neira de Mosquera, a journalist and author who apparently wrote an article in 1852 that, and I quote, became widespread and gave the ritual its notorious status. He was the one responsible for creating the word vota-fumeiro [I don't know whether he really created it or just made it widely known and popular]. Neira was also guilty of reinforcing the myth around its main purpose: to combat the bad odors of pilgrims. This idea, which had already been spread since the beginning of the 17th century, ignores the fact that there are easier methods of fragrancing a building than constructing a complex mechanical system like the botafumeiro.

It just occurred to me that, in order to make proper use of the 40 kg of coal with incense on it, you surely also have to keep the botafumeiro swinging all this time? Anything else would not make much sense, now would it? Because otherwise: would you put incense on coal in a closed egg-shaped container that does not move and hangs immobile from the ceiling when you might just as well put it all in a wide open shallow incense burner bowl? Less effort, less cost, less mechanical maintenance, less human resources needed. I ask you. 😎
 
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My question is if it were 40kgs of charcoal they have to lug up there who's going to do the grunt work, and certainly we'd notice. But no. It's a very portable amount, quite easily moved single-handedly by one no-longer-young cleric.😁
 
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HenkSlb

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Wow, am I glad that none of the earlier commenters seems to be working in the business of developing, say, airplanes! One of the problems will be that some are not used to using the metric system for units but apart from that commas and dots as separators between numbers appear to exchange places etc.
It would help to visit a supermarket and check how much (weight) of charcoal is in a package. Result: looking at the size of the Bfo an amount of 400 g (0.400 kg) could be reasonable. Nobody would carry 40 kg to the Bfo, unless it would be on his shoulders and the volume would be more than 170 Liter (which is the volume of a man twice my weight).
The idea of the Bfo flying out of a window when the ropes break is interesting, but... Usually a rope breaks when the force is at its max and the max force on the rope works when the Bfo is at its lowest point! That leaves any influence of the tiraboleros out of the equation.
 

Flog

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Wow, am I glad that none of the earlier commenters seems to be working in the business of developing, say, airplanes!
Hmm, I expect those working in the development of aircraft would probably be expected to use more exacting standards of measurement than those idly speculating about the volume of a lump of solid fuel.
Oh, I think the last two zeros of your quoted 0.400kg may be redundant.
 

Camino Chrissy

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ye lads need your heads examined !!!!, When you could be hoping that your prayers arise to heaven like the smoke of the incense ye are spending your time doing calculations. !!!
This is my favorite post on this thread. 😅
 

Kathar1na

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The idea of the Bfo flying out of a window when the ropes break is interesting, but... Usually a rope breaks when the force is at its max and the max force on the rope works when the Bfo is at its lowest point! That leaves any influence of the tiraboleros out of the equation.
It surprises me that you say that. Both the movement of the botafumeiro and the mechanism that puts it in motion and keeps it in motion have interested people, and there are technical papers on the net. The one where I got the sketch from says [translated]: Is the path of the botafumeiro safe? The most dangerous moment for an accident occurs at the top of the first cycles. - El momento mas peligroso un accidente ocurre en lo más alto de los primeros ciclos.

Then there is a long paragraph of technical talk that I would not bother to try to comprehend, whether it is in Spanish or in another language, and in the next paragraph the author mentions both the accident in 1622 when the botafumeiro dropped vertically and the accident in 1499 when "it flew like a projectile through the transept and crushed at the door". He then gives some physics/technical explanations so he obviously regards this as plausible.

The paper is called Física del botafumeiro and the author is Juan R. Sanmartín Losada. He has an impressive technical and scientific background. My gut feeling says that he knows what he is talking about. He has also published an article about the botafumeiro in the American Journal of Physics but I can't access the article.
 
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HenkSlb

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2017
If one goes from one unit to anmother the number of significant digits has to remain the same. So 403 g equals .403 kg or 0.403 kg. The zero up front has no real significance, by the way. If the 3 would be a 0 the idea would be the same--write it down. If you see a distance of 22 km on a roadsign that would indicate a real distance between 21.5 and 22.5 km. But 22.000 km would mean that the distance is within 0.0005 m (0.5 m) of the mentioned one.
 

Kathar1na

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Perhaps we could go back to "idly speculating about the volume of a lump of solid fuel" instead of trying to teach each other stuff that we don't quite need for this idle discussion and that may be even not quite right? Unless my memory totally fails me, I know that there are areas of science/technology where 0.4 and 0.400 are the same thing; other areas where 0.4 is written as 0,4 and 4.000 is written as 4 000; other areas where you never write .4; and other areas again where 0.4 can mean anything between 0.40 and 0.49. 😶
 

HenkSlb

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2017
To Kathar1na:

The two forces that work on the rope have the gravity on, and the movement of the Bfo as origin. Suppose the Bfo is at its highest point when the rope is exactly horizontal, then the gravity pulls the Bfo down but the rope does not feel that force and the rope can not prevent the Bfo going down. The Bfo does not move at its highest point, so the centrifugal (better: centripetal) force is zero because that force is proportional with the square of the speed. Total force on the rope is zero.
In the lowest point the Bfo hangs on the rope so the gravity force is the normal weight of the Bfo. But there is also the speed of the moving thing and that produces a centrifugal force proportional to the square of the speed, proportional to the mass of the Bfo and inversely proportional to the radius of the movement. Using the right units the result should be in N (Newton). Now tthe rope could have a weak spot or the connection to the ceiling could fail but the force will be at its max in the lowest point of the trajectory.
 

HenkSlb

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Perhaps we could go back to "idly speculating about the volume of a lump of solid fuel" instead of trying to teach each other stuff that we don't quite need for this idle discussion and that may be even not quite right? Unless my memory totally fails me, I know that there are areas of science/technology where 0.4 and 0.400 are the same thing; other areas where 0.4 is written as 0,4 and 4.000 is written as 4 000; other areas where you never write .4; and other areas again where 0.4 can mean anything between 0.40 and 0.49. 😶
Fine. But as a physicist I sometimes try to put things a bit straight. That's not smart and bad for my heart. In mathematics 1 and 1.00 might be the same but that certainly is not true for physics. Lots of people won't believe that but the technicians know and use it.
 

Kathar1na

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@HenkSlb: I found the article in English. It was published in 1984. The author published later again about the Botafumeiro in Spanish, and with a somewhat different content and fewer formulas. It may or may not interest you and others: Botafumeiro: Parametric pumping in the Middle Ages. Juan R. Sanmartin, Escuela Tecnica Superior de Ingenieros Aeronauticos, Universidad Politecnica de Madrid. It has a short paragraph about accidents.

I actually have a question: The movement is often described as that of a pendulum. I reminds me of a swing where you can get so high that you can do a full circle (is it called rollover in English?). Is that not the same thing or something different? (I have next to no idea of the physics behind it all).
 
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From the article we see the Bfo has a mass of 53 kg but once the bowl holding the coals, the coals, and the incense have been added its mass is 56.5 kg (i.e., an additional 3.5 kg). So there is less than 4 kg of coals used.
 

Bert45

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@Bert45, you may want to have a look at Botafumeiro: Parametric pumping in the Middle Ages, too. In the 1980s, somebody actually went and weighed stuff! And he did so with the assistance of Armando Raposo Guldrin, who was the head tiraboleiro for many years.
I have just done that. Of course, I could not follow the equations, but the general argument and conclusions seem to be OK. In simple pendulum theory, with a weightless rope, no air drag, etc, the tension in the rope would indeed be maximum when the rope is vertical. When you factor in all the complications, and you have a compound pendulum, it gets more difficult. Sanmartín writes, in the paper provided by Kathar1na:
"If pumping is ignored the tension F in the rope is largest when θ = 0, at high θm [Eq. (28)]. Pumping changes this: accidents in which the Censer would break loose are in fact more probable when θ= θm, at low θm." [I'd take his word for it! Unfortunately, he doesn't say what "low θm" means – 5° or less, 10°, 20°, or more?] where θ is the angle between the rope and the vertical and θm is the amplitude of the swing.

He states that the Bfo weighs 53 kg (empty) and the knot weighs 2.4 kg (3 m at 0.81 kg/m), so:
"Once the bowl holding live coals, and then incense, is introduced in the Censer, and considering the knot as part of it, a nearly rigid body of mass M = 56.5 kg is obtained." So he's saying that the coals and incense amount to 1.1 kg. He doesn't actually state that anywhere, but I'll not ague with him. If you refer way back to my OP, you will see that I was quoting Spanish Wiki in giving the weight of charcoal as 400 g. This is obviously (to me) a guess or estimate. it is a 'round' number. If they had written 405 g or 407 g, that would have implied much greater accuracy. It would imply that the charcoal had been weighed, and, moreover, that the weight of charcoal used was always precisely the same. It would have been better if Spanish Wiki had said that 0.4 kg of charcoal was used (about 0.4 kg even better). 0.4 kg implies anywhere between 0.35 kg and 0.45 kg. I suggested that 400 g had been converted to 0.40 kg, preserving one of the zeroes after the 4, and that this had been misread as 40 kg. If 400 g had been converted to 0.400 kg, perhaps we would be reading that 400 kg of charcoal is loaded into the Bfo! If the conversion went to 0.4 kg, we might have read that 4 kg of charcoal is put into the Bfo, which would probably not have prompted this debate.

"somebody actually went and weighed stuff!" -- with what results?

Sanmartín states that
"The fact that the amplitude cannot exceed a maximum value θ„ is confirmed by experience (the men who pump are really unable to hit the vault with the Censer)."
So a rollover is not possible. [Of course the ceiling of the transept would get in the way, anyway.] Again, I can't follow the maths, so I'll take his word for it. He also explains the rope does not hit the arches of the transept at the maximum amplitude because it curves under its own weight.
 
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Kathar1na

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The thread has collected a number of convincing arguments, even proof in my eyes, but will it convince @Bert45's friend to change the content on his website? I'm not holding my breath. 🤭

You'd think men pull rope, big censer flies, why even waste a single thought about it? What you miss is how much human ingenuity, elements of discovery and technology is behind it.

I had read in recent years that the church in Navarrete, the one with the huge gold covered altarpiece, also has a botafumeiro now. I finally had a look at YouTube videoclips. Well, their censer doesn't quite swing like the botafumeiro in Santiago does - how to describe it ... it appears to move more erratically up and down? Santiago may have started like this but then through trial and error and perhaps determination they developed the knowhow that they possess now.
 
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the church in Navarrete, the one with the huge gold covered altarpiece, also has a botafumeiro now. I finally had a look at YouTube videoclips. Well, their censer doesn't quite swing like the botafumeiro in Santiago does - how to describe it ... it appears to move more erratically up and down?
OMG that was scary to watch. I can imagine accidents here far more easily than in the Cathedral in Santiago.
Santiago may have started like this but then through trial and error and perhaps determination they developed the knowhow that they possess now.
Yeah. Maybe those stories of the thurible flying through the window like a Magic Johnson long shot are true.
 
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Kathar1na

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Maybe those stories of the thurible flying through the window like a Magic Johnson long shot are true.
Flying through the window and landing on the plaza outside - no. Crushing at a door - yes. The stories about the Botafumeiro flying through a window are on the same level as this description in the English Wikipedia, and I quote:

Shovels are used to fill the Botafumeiro, or the Alcachofa, with about [XX] kg of charcoal and incense.[citation needed]
As you can see, narrators are imaginative: Why let it crash on the door (plausible) when it could fly through a stained glass rose window (implausible)? Why a small metal tray when you can have shovels? Gives you a much better story.
 
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Flying through the window and landing on the plaza outside - no. Crushing at a door - yes.
I was joking, actually. Sorry - I should have used an emoji. It's like a cartoon, because that could never happen. And like a cartoon the melodrama is amusing.

A Cathedral full of glitterati, whose upturned faces are all following the trajectory of the Bfo, back and forth, back and forth...then....OMG... 😮😮😮😮😮 ...as it flies off as if in slo-mo, neatly punching a hole through the stained glass window and crashing into the plaza outside, spreading it's 40kilos of charcoal all over the pavement.
The world stops for a split second, stunned into silence, then pandemonium.
🤣
 

David Tallan

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I was joking, actually. Sorry - I should have used an emoji. It's like a cartoon, because that could never happen. And like a cartoon the melodrama is amusing.

A Cathedral full of glitterati, whose upturned faces are all following the trajectory of the Bfo, back and forth, back and forth...then....OMG... 😮😮😮😮😮 ...as it flies off as if in slo-mo, neatly punching a hole through the stained glass window and crashing into the plaza outside, spreading it's 40kilos of charcoal all over the pavement.
The world stops for a split second, stunned into silence, then pandemonium.
🤣
It may fly through the stained glass window but it won't actually fall to the ground until it looks down and realizes it is no longer supported.
 

Debi Baker

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I know that if you ask the internet for information you will get answers that conflict with each other. The cathedral website does not state how much charcoal is used in the Botafumeiro [Bfo from now on, it's easier to type), and I would have no problem if everybody said "some charcoal is put into the Botafumeiro", but several sites and blogs do give a figure. I have an e-friend who has been blogging his 2013 Camino and he has read somewhere that they put 80 pounds of charcoal into the Bfo and put that in his blog. I believe that this is nonsense, but I cannot convince him to change it. I have read in Spanish Wiki that they put 400 grams of charcoal into the Bfo. (Obviously, nobody weighs it; it's an estimate.) I believe that this has been converted to 0.40 kg, misread as 40 kg, and converted to 88 pounds, and rounded down to 80 pounds. English Wiki says "about 40 kg". I found over 400 results with <"botafumeiro" "40 kg" "charcoal"> Over 2000 results with <"botafumeiro" "400" "carbón" -"40 kg">. I have seen videos where you can see that a scoop of hot charcoal is placed in the Bfo. I have asked the Cathedral, but not had a reply. Apart from getting a certificate from the Cathedral, what can I do? Don't start looking for the weight of the Bfo!
 

Debi Baker

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I know that if you ask the internet for information you will get answers that conflict with each other. The cathedral website does not state how much charcoal is used in the Botafumeiro [Bfo from now on, it's easier to type), and I would have no problem if everybody said "some charcoal is put into the Botafumeiro", but several sites and blogs do give a figure. I have an e-friend who has been blogging his 2013 Camino and he has read somewhere that they put 80 pounds of charcoal into the Bfo and put that in his blog. I believe that this is nonsense, but I cannot convince him to change it. I have read in Spanish Wiki that they put 400 grams of charcoal into the Bfo. (Obviously, nobody weighs it; it's an estimate.) I believe that this has been converted to 0.40 kg, misread as 40 kg, and converted to 88 pounds, and rounded down to 80 pounds. English Wiki says "about 40 kg". I found over 400 results with <"botafumeiro" "40 kg" "charcoal"> Over 2000 results with <"botafumeiro" "400" "carbón" -"40 kg">. I have seen videos where you can see that a scoop of hot charcoal is placed in the Bfo. I have asked the Cathedral, but not had a reply. Apart from getting a certificate from the Cathedral, what can I do? Don't start looking for the weight of the Bfo!
I happened to observe the lighting of the charcoal ( attached photo) up stairs in the cloister just by chance. It is about 25 times the amount I use at Mass as Sacristan when I light our Botafumerio.
 
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how to successfully prepare for your Camino
This book's focus is on reducing the risk of failure through being well prepared.

Kathar1na

Member
Past OR future Camino
To Santiago and back (roads & paths; Tours; Francés; sea; roads & paths)
Fantastic photo, thank you ☺️!!!

So on the right we can see the metal tool that they use to hold and transport the small round metal tray that they put into the Botafumeiro, together with the burning charcoal. They have at least two of these trays as we can now see, and while the one at the bottom is filled with ash the one at the top is filled with char/coal. We can see the lumps and could probably count them if we wanted to. They are not the round compressed charcoal disks but proper lumps - presumably cheaper. What more could we possibly want to know? 🤭

I guess we could wonder about the purpose of the cauldron on the left?
 

Bert45

Active Member
Past OR future Camino
(2003) Francés, (2014) Francés, (2016) Portugués , (2016) Aragonés, (2018) del Norte to Primitivo,
Oh, Wow! Christmas has come early! Thank you Debi! (But what took you so long? You could have settled this debate if you'd posted at #2 :) ) How lucky you were to see that and to take the fantastic photo! I think that Rick is spot on with his suggestion for the purpose of the large pot. I wouldn't want to carry the small bowl very far with a pair of tongs. Let's all guestimate the weight of charcoal in the bowl, then we can take an average of all the guesses to get a definitive answer. I'll start with 500 grams.
 
Past OR future Camino
Us:Camino Frances, 2015 Me:Catalan/Aragonese, 2019
Let's all guestimate the weight of charcoal in the bowl, then we can take an average of all the guesses to get a definitive answer. I'll start with 500 grams.
Peg estimated that she would put about a pound of charcoal into our old hibachi. Then I showed her the picture and she said "Not even that much.". So I will guesstimate 600 grams.
 
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A collection of Camino Maps from the Camino Forum Store
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