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The Botafumeiro or “Smoke Boat” is the world’s largest thurible (over six feet tall) and it resides in the shrine of St James in Compostela. They literally load it up with shovels of incense.

thurifer21There’s usually no gray area in the pressing issue of INCENSE- you either love it or not.  We’ve all heard the jokes- “You could choke on the smoke at Mass!”- or the one about the Bishop in flowing regalia, “yes he was sublime in lace but his purse was on fire”, etc. etc.  The “turrible thurible”. Many parish priests would love to be incensed on Sunday, but spare the congregation.  There are not too many parishes in the state which regularly “smoke up a storm”- St. John the Evangelist in Newport and perhaps St. Stephen’s in Providence.  Those Anglo-Catholics just can’t give up smoking!  The real trick to becoming an incense devotee is to go with the flow and just BREATHE it in quietly and breathe out without a fuss.  A Hall’s honey lemon cough drop is a great aide until you get used to it. Another key is a thurifer who knows what they are about. A thurible must be kept on the move gently to keep the charcoal briquets hot and evenly burning. Quality incense should be in the brazier and nudging the charcoal at just the right angle. 

Yes, it is an art -“thurifering” and no 360 degree wild swings should be attempted by mere amateurs.  I have witnessed many disasters -and with a procession hard on the heels of the glowing inferno on the floor.  No choir should have to walk hot “coals”!  A metal dustpan is a MUST in sacristies which harbor a thurible.


Our next post will deal with how to clean YOUR thurible and prevent sediment build-up. But for now, sit back and enjoy “The Botafumeiro at the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela” . It must be seen to be believed- and do not miss the ending. Now that is ONE brave thurifer.  All new meaning to “Holy Smoke!”.http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2QFd_55El1I


Another thurible of note. Location unknown.