Wow! What a censer!

This is from the Pope’s trip to Spain – in the Cathedral of St. James in Compostela. Pretty cool.

With all due respect to my Protestant brothers and sisters, and with all due acknowledgment of how much we Romans could learn from you: here’s the kind of thing  that makes me very happy to be Catholic.


  1. Yes, yes, and did you see the huge brazier they put on the altar during the dedication of Sagrada Familia? It was magnificent!

    (Just remember: not all of us ‘Protestants’ dislike incense in the liturgy… of course, not all of us ‘Protestants’ consider ourself to be ‘Protestant’!)

  2. It’s NOT the sort of thing that makes me very happy . . . of course, had it hit some of the gathered assembly, I might’ve been a bit happier, and had HH taken a few Vox Clara and CDWDS advisors with him, and had it hit them . . . but I digress . . .

    Seriously, had Monsignor Marini handed the Pope a program with the words to the Hymn of Saint James (which is what they traditionally sing when the thing does its trick, and even some of the bishops seemed to be singing) turning the Pope into a participant rather than a spectator (of a swinging thurible, for God’s sake!) I’d have been a lot happier.

    But if things like this make you happy to be Catholic, I’m pleased for you.

    1. “It’s NOT the sort of thing that makes me very happy . . . of course, had it hit some of the gathered assembly, I might’ve been a bit happier . . .”


      Not only are many of your posts in this forum overly sarcastic to the point of “enough already,” you further show by this last post that you have a weird sense of humor and are a kill-joy.

      A naughty fellow can be entertaining, if he knows when to quit. A pest doesn’t know when, and is a nuisance.

      Enough already!

      1. Vic

        Thanks for the lecture.

        I wonder if you have anything to say about the post upon which we’re supposed to be commenting. Or is the need to regulate the existence and activities of others just too great for you?

        If you don’t like my posts, just ignore them (there are several people who post on here frequently whose comments I always ignore, just as there are blogs frequently referred to on here which I never visit: in other words, I mind my own business – you should try it): unlike a giant thurible hurtling through space, or a Vatican dicastery, they can’t hurt you.

  3. I would like to download a video of the dedication of the church. Do you know of any web-sites from which I can do this? There was a great web-site for the papal visit to Great Britain, but I don’t know of one of this event.

    1. Austen Ivereigh had a number of posts about the dedication on America’s blog. Here’s one:

      Wispers in the Loggia ( also has some information on it with a link to the dedication in three parts. The video is in Spanish. I’ve not investigated enough to see if there’s an English one floating about somewhere, but I’m sure there is.


  4. The swinging of the Botafumeiro is typically done on the feast of St James (July 25), and this year is a Jacobeo Holy Year because July 25th fell on a Sunday (the Spanish king and queen typically attend the jubilee), but I wonder how rare it is for it to be swung on another occasion, such as this weekend?

  5. Holy swinging censers, Batman! I can see jokes flying left and right, just like that gargantuan apparatus. How many acolytes (or what were they? bishops?) does it take to incense the assembly? But seriously, that’s just the beauty, not only of Catholicism, but of catholicity: it’s a group job. You can’t be Catholic by yourself.

  6. I’m sure that kind of thing wouldn’t have been allowed on HH’s trip to the UK, where we are obsessed with health & safety, risk assessments and the like. More’s the pity.

  7. Yes, the holy father was definitely cracking a smile. I’d imagine he was thinking (in German) “wow, that is SO cool”.

  8. I think the botafumeiro is a ridiculous circus act. They should install a giant whirling sprinkler on the ceiling next, to distort the Asperges out of proportion. Harumph!

    1. This is just a guess, but in a church full of hundreds of medieval pilgrims who had walked all the way there for several weeks, likely without bathing, I suspect the enormous censer may have been quite a practical invention.

      Still, practical or not, the botafumeiro falls squarely within the “just plain cool” category.

  9. There seems to be a long tradition of over-the-top awesomeness in Spain. I recall reading about their celebrations for the assumption at the New Liturgical Movement where in one city they have a contraption come out of a church ceiling to carry a child playing the Blessed Virgin up to Heaven to be crowned by the Holy Trinity.

    1. The play to which you refer takes place at the Basílica Menor de Santa María de Elche, and is staged in two parts — in the evening before the feast of the Assumption, and in the day of the feast itself. The contraption is a sort of giant gilded pomegranate: delightfully over the top indeed!

  10. c.grady<<It’s NOT the sort of thing that makes me very happy . . . of course, had it hit some of the gathered assembly, I might’ve been a bit happier, and had HH taken a few Vox Clara and CDWDS advisors with him, and had it hit them . . . but I digress . . <<<

    Chris, where does all your bitterness come from? you put yourself in very bad company!

    ……… the house was filled with the odour of the ointment."
    "Then saith one of His disciples, Judas Iscariot, Simon's son, which should betray Him, Why was not this ointment sold for three hundred pence, and given to the poor? (KJV for my separated sistren and brethren!)……

    1. Or perhaps this is more like it:

      “And it came to pass, when the priests were come out of the holy place, that the cloud filled the house of the LORD, So that the priests could not stand to minister because of the cloud: for the glory of the LORD had filled the house of the LORD. Then spake Solomon, The LORD said that he would dwell in thick darkness. I have surely built thee an house to dwell in, a settled place for thee to abide in for ever.” 1 Kings 8:10-13

  11. Permit me a dissent:

    – I find Chris’s posts a refreshing counterpoint to the stuffiness. And that he’s hit a nerve, obviously. It’s like a conversation, people: if you don’t like the content, either ignore it or address it. That you have snarky things to say about his alleged naughtiness, sarcasm, and bitterness is first, guesswork, and second, revelatory about yourselves. You have to get personal to match his tartness.

    – On topic, I find myself impressed by the spectacle. But what is incensation about? Is it about the vehicle that delivers the smoke? Or is it about the smells and the wisps of the burning incense itself?

    “My prayers swing like a giant metal ball …”

    1. +JMJ+

      Perhaps you don’t remember his comment about Mother Angelica’s health from a few months ago.

      I’m sure there’s much in our Christian liturgical history that could be considered a “spectacle”. Even earlier, I’d bet the Temple built by Solomon was spectacular for a people used to worshiping God in a movable tent! The grandeur of the building or instrument is not an end, but a means, of course. I think it’s hard to not pay attention to the thurible (whether big or small, ornate or plain), just as to not pay attention to a chasuble, a chalice, or a crosier.

      I think this thurible does its job well, and it captures the imagination and awe of the faithful.

    2. While I used to be a more regular reader of the traditionalist blogs mentioned (and others), I’m sad to report that indeed snark exists on the Right. And occasionally it can be perceived as insulting.

      And if I can get banned from some conservative commentariats for presenting church teaching and liturgical law, I can assure you the blog hosts would be even more intolerant of Chris.

    3. I think we have a glut of snark, and it has lost its capacity to be refreshing. It also does our side no good service whatsoever.

      And, unfortunately, the Internet is quite unlike a person-to-person conversation. If we’ve not learned that lesson yet, we’ve got a lot to learn.

      1. ‘I think we have a glut of snark, and it has lost its capacity to be refreshing. It also does our side no good service whatsoever.’

        Karl Liam Saur:

        I totally agree, and here’s just one sample of such ‘snark’ recently seen on this blog:

        ‘Oh, dear, Fritz, you had to ask. That may have the unintended effect of increasing the drama around it. It’s best to starve the oxygen instead.’

        You, Karl Liam Saur, wrote it on this blog Novemer 6 at 12:13pm.

        Yet again, nothing to add to the substantive discussion.

        By your own admission (unless of course you think the rules don’t apply to you) you’re sounding an awful lot like what ‘Liturgiam Authenticam’ might literally call a hypocrite.

    4. Todd said: “- I find Chris’s posts a refreshing counterpoint to the stuffiness. ”

      Snark is only refreshing if it has a point or reveals some sort of truth in a witty way. Getting a negative reaction (“hitting a nerve”) doesn’t mean Chris’ comments are actually meaningful. I tend to just ignore him.

  12. This spectacle strikes me as an early example of inculturation, growing out of the exuberant character of southern Europe. I think those of us from, or descended from, the wintry, tight-lipped north might think it ‘over the top’ were it, say, in Salisbury. Where it is and as it is, I love it.

  13. Hmmm. It’s impressive, surely. But, it seems to me as though it’s intended to be either a clever invention or to aid in incensing the congregation to get on with the rest of mass. If the latter, is it not quite at odds with the notion that seeking to contain the length of mass for the sake of getting done in a reasonable [however defined] time is inappropriate? I’m thinking of the idea that some have advanced extraordinary ministers of Communion are not supposed to be ordinary – used every week as a matter of routine.

    Of course, when you have two priests, a limited amount of parking, and seven masses each week, in two languages, getting done in a certain amount of time is a necessity.

  14. I wonder if there is not a more practical origin for this immense vessel… perhaps connected to the taxation of gold at a very high rate at certain times. Clothing, weaponry and religious implements were exempted from the tax. I know this is the reason for the sudden emergence of excessive use of gold buttons on clothing in the 16th Century, as well as the creation of gold swords and knives at the same time. I am no historian though….perhaps some more learned individual could comment on whether this might be a possible reason for such a large gold object.

  15. With all due respect to the naysayers, I HAVE to get one of those for my parish. [ I have to agree with the Pope: that is SO cool…]

  16. While this Lutheran loves incense in the Mass (and is NOT a Protestant, thank you), but this spectacle is just over the top, and there is nothing reverent about the congregation being censed in this grotesque manner.

    How should the Pope have reacted? He knew about this censer gigante, but it is better left in the annals of history and retired quietly. The 8 Canons who operate the pulleys and ropes can certainly find work in a rural parish or hospital, I would presume.

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