DAY 42: MONDAY, MAY 29, 2017

PILGRIM RITUALS: There are a few rituals that pilgrims like to participate in once they reach Santiago. One is going to a Pilgrim mass at the Cathedral. And, if you are so fortunate, you may also see botafumeiro ritual take place at the end of mass. This is the largest censer in the world which is used for spreading incense smoke. It weights 175 lbs and is five feet in height. It takes eight men pumping a rope that is attached to a pulley system from the ceiling — it reaches up to 80 mph as it swings from side to side of the cathedral until it just about hits the ceiling.

Typically, they light up the botafumerio at the noon pilgrim’s mass on Saturday (it used to be Friday evening.) You never really know when this is going to take place but it is quite the site. We were rushing into town on Sunday morning because we heard the botafumeiro was being done at the noon mass. It took so long to get into town and being a tired, weary pilgrim I said to Terry, “if we were meant to see it, it will happen — let’s not worry about it.” We slowed our pace down and became very relaxed about the whole deal. We didn’t even make it inside the Cathedral on Sunday and a “gin-tonica” celebration seemed like a better idea. I’m glad we didn’t try to make it to the noon mass — there were so many pilgrims arriving and rushing toward the cathedral. It would have been extremely crowded.

On Monday, we started wandering and we wanted to tour the Cathedral. It just so happened that we wandered into a noon Pilgrim’s mass. It was standing room only and we stood in the back of the church. We saw the botafumeiro  hanging above the altar but assumed that’s where they kept it. We were delighted when after mass, the eight men showed up to take their position with the ropes. It’s quite the process to light it. When it was swinging over our heads, we could see that it was filled with flames. What an amazing sight watching this flaming censer flying over the congregants. At one point, it just about hit the ceiling which made me gasp. Like I said the day before, if we were mean to see it, it will happen. And it did happen.

What an amazing sight watching this flaming incensor flying over the congregants.

When they started lighting the censer, all the cameras came out.

It is said that the censer was installed to cover the stench of all the unwashed pilgrims.

It takes eight men pumping the ropes to keep the censer flying from one side of the cathedral to the other.

The censer is way up by the ceiling. I wonder how safe is it for a 175-lb censer filled with flames to be flying at 80 mph over people’s heads?

This is the first time we heard a choir and organ at a mass.

Next ritual is to go to the crypt of St. James \which is located below the altar.


The tomb of St. James is located down the steps in a small room with a couple kneelers and a rack of vigil lights.

Next ritual is to put your hands on the shoulders of the St. James statue at the altar. There is a small staircase that leads up to the backside of the statue.


This is the small staircase behind the altar that comes down from the St. James statue. Notice the footsteps worn into the stone.

There is one more ritual which takes place at the Portico de la Gloria. It is no longer allowed to put your hand on the Jesse Tree because five finger holes have been worn away in the stone from the millions of pilgrims who have placed their hand there.

We are on our little balcony at the Nest Style hostel in Santiago doing some people watching.

Our balcony neighbor Kevin from Montreal joined in our little balcony happy hour. The face in  the window above is his dad Kevin who is from Ireland.

Out for some wine and tapas.

Our bartender Larissa was serving up cheese and red peppers.

This is a giant height-chair type table that we’ve seen in Galicia.


The table part of the height-chair lifts up so you can get out.


It’s a Monday night around 11:30 pm and this place filled up with musicians. We were leaving and it was very crowded. David and Terry had made their way out when this room full of men decided to serenade me. It was lovely. I made a video of it but WordPress doesn’t allow me to put videos on my blog. I did post it on my Facebook page.


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Jane is a resident of Browndale neighborhood in St. Louis Park, Minnesota.

2 thoughts on “Santiago

  1. Your Cathedral in Santiagois spectacular and the censer is amazing! Tapas look. Like they would disappear quickly at Sally’s. Enjoy your interesting and spectacular journey.


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