After thirteen days of cycling it was good to enjoy being in Santiago de Compostela. We went to the pilgrims office to collect our final stamp and certificate and to the ‘Nederlandse Kamer’ (Dutch Room) to have a chat and a coffee. There we learned that we could get and extraordinary, extra certificate from the Saint Francis church. They give certificates once every hundred (!) years, and 2014 is a lucky year. It’s 800 years ago that Saint Francis from Asisi came to Santiago de Compostela as a pilgrim.
After our final-final stamp and extra certificate, we were just on time in the catherdral to get good places for the holy pilgrims mass. The cathedral was filled to the last standing place when the ceremony started. An older, friendly nun taught the community how to sing some of the songs during the holy mass. She did a very good job.
Although many visitors will attend the holy mass on religious grounds, the big attraction of the event is the swinging of the Botafumeiro, the largest censer (Dutch: wierookvat) in the world. Officially it is only used on special occasions, but we understand that nowadays it is used during every (= daily) pilgrims mass.
A dome above the crossing contains the pulley mechanism to swing the “Botafumeiro”, which is a famous thurible found in this church. It was created by the goldsmith José Losada in 1851. The Santiago de Compostela Botafumeiro is the largest censer in the world, weighing 80 kg and measuring 1.60 m in height. It is normally on exhibition in the library of the cathedral, but during certain important religious high days it is attached to the pulley mechanism, filled with 40 kg of charcoal and incense. In the Jubilee Years, whenever St James’s Day falls on a Sunday, the Botafumeiro is also attached in all the Pilgrims’ Masses. Eight red-robed tiraboleiros pull the ropes and bring it into a swinging motion almost to the roof of the transept, reaching speeds of 80 km/h and dispensing thick clouds of incense. One explanation of this custom, which originated more than 700 years ago—although incense has been used in Catholic ritual from the earliest times—is that it assisted in masking the stench emanating from hundreds of unwashed pilgrims.
The rest of the afternoon I visited the very interesting Cathedral Museum, while Jos and Marjo had their own program.
We enjoyed a last tapaz meal with a bottle of Rioja wine. Tomorrow we fly back home.