The “Other” Botafumeiro
The Botafumeiro is a famous thurible found in the Santiago de Compostela Cathedral in Spain. During his recent visit to that country, the Holy Father had the opportunity to see it in action.
One of the largest censers in the world, weighing nearly 180 pounds, the Botafumeiro is suspended from a pulley mechanism in the dome on the roof of the church. The current pulley mechanism was installed in 1604. Shovels are used to fill it with almost 90 pounds of charcoal and incense. It is pushed initially to start its motion. Eight red-robed tiraboleiros (meaning literally "incense carriers") pull the ropes, producing increasingly large oscillations of the censer. It can reach speeds of over forty miles per hour.
Meanwhile, at St John the Beloved in McLean, we have a replica of the Botafumeiro, which yours truly is displaying here (and which can be viewed better by clicking on the image). The vessel itself is about one foot high and eight inches wide, which is quite large for any thurible devoted to parish use, hence it is not used very often. But we dragged it out of mothballs, and persuaded the sacristan to act as photographer, for this occasion. If you want to read more about the genuine article, go to Gloria.TV.