We walked down Rua da Acibecheria on a Saturday morning last May to attend the Pilgrim’s Mass at Catedral de Santiago which starts at noon every day. We reached the cathedral’s north facade and then walked around the east side through Praza das Quintana and finally entered the cathedral through its south entrance at Praza das Platerias.
We were surprised to find so many people in the Praza das Praterias. See photos # 8 and 9 below for the answer to this mystery.
We arrived for Mass at 11:30am but the pews were already full and the aisles were blocked off. So we sat on the edge of a pillar near the south entrance and about eight inches from the floor. Soon it was Standing Room Only and we had to stand up to see anything going on.
Pilgrims walking across Spain on the Camino in the old days never bathed and never changed their clothes and by the time they reached the cathedral in Santiago they really stank! So the priests came up with the idea of burning incense in a giant censer called a botafumeiro and swinging it over the pilgrims when they came to the cathedral to attend mass. This event is recreated often at the end of the Pilgrim’s Mass.
The botafumeiro is made of silver-plated brass and weighs more than 100 kg when it is full of coal and incense. It takes eight men to operate the censer and the full trajectory is about 65 meters across the transepts. After a minute or two it travels at a rate of 68 km per hour.
After Mass we discovered a live concert in the Praza das Praterias.
We didn’t have to walk too far as there are many restaurants in this neighborhood south of the cathedral. We chose a nice pizzeria / ristorante that offered a pleasant outdoor dining experience.
After lunch we walked back to our respective hotels, stopping at several souvenir shops along Rua da Acibecheria. My sisters went to dinner with their tour group that evening and my wife and I walked back to this area and had dinner at another Italian restaurant nearby.
We went back to tour the cathedral the next day and also to explore the Praza do Obradoiro, the large plaza that spreads out in front of the cathedral’s west entrance. I’ll be posting about these adventures in a few days.