The Santiago de Compostela Botafumeiro is one of the largest censers in the world, weighing 80 kg/176 lbs. and measuring 1.60 m/5.25 ft. in height. It is hung from a pulley mechanism in the dome on the roof of the church . The current pulley mechanism was installed in 1604.
Tradition has it that the use of a swinging censer in the Santiago de Compostela Cathedral began in the 11th century. Arriving pilgrims were tired and unwashed. It was also believed that incense smoke had a purifying effect in the time of plagues and epidemics. Incense burning is also an important part of the liturgy, being an “oration to God”, or form of prayer.
As I am told and have experienced, the Botafumeiro does not swing at each and every Pilgrim’s Mass. However, during the mass on June 7th, it did swing. I was very happy that my tour group was able to witness this traditional swinging.