The Pilgrim’s Mass in Santiago

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.

Walking past the Royal Door, one of many entrances along the cathedral’s Praza das Quintana. This is also the entrance to the cathedral’s gift shop.

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.

View of Praza das Praterias from the end of Praza das Quintana. The building in the background is known as Casa Do Cabildo, built in the 1700s. Its only reason for existence is to make the plaza look pretty — it’s just a facade, only three meters deep!

We joined the line of people entering the cathedral.

The Romanesque south facade is the only outside visible remnant of the original Cathedral that was built in the 12th century. The three other sides of the cathedral were constructed in the Baroque style in the 17th century.

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.

View of the south transept’s main aisle all the way to the north transept. The famous incense censer called a botafumeiro is hanging over the main altar from the cathedral’s central dome.

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.

Is it possible to live without our cell phones?

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.

I caught the botafumeiro as it froze for a split second near the ceiling of the south transept before swinging back all the way to the north transept.

After Mass we discovered a live concert in the Praza das Praterias.

A large crowd standing around the plaza and sitting on the plaza steps listening to a concert.

Another shot of the concert and the Praza das Praterias and the cathedral’s south entrance. Look closely near the center of the photo and you will see the conductor of the symphonic orchestra. She is the one in a black suit.

A final shot of the plaza and the cathedral as we began to walk down Rua da Vilar looking for lunch.

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.

My sisters Betty (left) and Marie (right) and their friend Ginny from their Road Scholar tour nearing the end of a very nice lunch.

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.

About crowcanyonjournal

I am a family man with interests in family history, photography, history and travel.
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7 Responses to The Pilgrim’s Mass in Santiago

  1. kzmcb says:

    I think that incense trajectory will be an ideal story for the next time I teach parabolas!

  2. Amy says:

    Magnificent cathedral! Enjoyed the tour through your beautiful photos!

  3. Thanks, Amy! I’ll have some more photos of the cathedral in the next few days.

  4. Peter Klopp says:

    The following things impressed me while reading your excellent post. You had to line up to attend mass in the cathedral, you could not find a pew, because all the pews were already taking. That is absolutely amazing in our secularized world today. I also like very much the story telling about how the priests managed to deal successfully with the stench of the pilgrims. As always a very impressive post, my friend!

  5. I love the sense of size in your photos Crow!!

  6. Pingback: Santiago’s Praza das Praterias — the Square of the Silversmiths | Crow Canyon Journal

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