Holy Smoke, Pilgrim!

I’m currently in the Santiago airport, no Internet, so this will be posted when I get into Florence. It was an easy morning, though I had to be careful packing because I’m flying RyanAir to Rome and they have a strict weight limit on checked bags= 30 kilos and I knew my bag was a bit over 14…I’m carrying a sweater with me to help ensure I’d not go over! Silly. They charge 20 Euros per kilo over the limit, that’s 30 bucks!

Anyway, I spent an hour or so just walking around the city snapping some shots I’d missed somehow, like the market, fashion glasses, and so on. I tried to go to lunch about 12.30, but the place I wanted to go didn’t open until 1pm, so I had to kill some time. I headed for the Cathedral where I figured I could get a seat and wait out the rain. Got a rear pew, and sat for a bit. But then something very excited happened.

And it had to do with more smoke. What else? We’re in Spain!

But it was a very special smoke and a very special smoke dispensing device.

Botafumeiro is the name.

And it’s a giant censer, no, not the kind that fines people like Janet Jackson, but rather, the kind that’s been used in churches for millennia. An incense burner, technically called a thurible. The name translates into something like “smoke putter-outter”. But this one is silver plated and weighs 170 odd pounds, standing about three or four feet high, at least, and burns eighty pounds of charcoal and incense at a time. It was supposedly designed to add a more pleasing scent to the air of the church which, typically hundreds of years ago, was filled with pilgrims who slept inside the church and probably hadn’t bathed for months. Talk about your stink to high heaven!!! I’m sure they got to heaven through their long journey in at least this sense! And then with the help of incense…yes, incense was considered to be a sort of offering, or prayer to god, like burning sheep on an altar, which I’d assume would be tastier.

So the bishop had this giant censer constructed, and though these days it is usually used only on weekends and feast days, for some reason they cranked the sucker up today. And, damn, did I feel lucky. Shot a bit of video which you can see here. It’s a bit iffy since the crowds filled the best places to shoot. Had I known it was gonna fly at the end of mass, I would have gotten closer earlier. But, it is what it is.

Watching that thing swing through the church was truly amazing, something I will never forget. I could smell the incense, but it was not as intense as I’d assumed it would be. As a former altar boy (now an altered-boy…not that way, dummy, attitudinally and mentally), I know this stuff first hand. A normal censer can produce enough resiny smoke to fill a normal sized church in a very short time.

Apparently they have a few of these things which alternate. One is called the alcachofa, or artichoke! Smoked artichokes, now there’s a heavenly idea!

1 comment on “Holy Smoke, Pilgrim!

  1. One hell of a censer!! Thanks SambaMaster for sharing it. You should have hopped on.


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