In a prior blog post we talked about our walk along the Camino de Santiago. While we walked only a short way, we thought it would be fun to see the ending. So we DROVE to Santiago de Compostela and rented an apartment in the historic district near the cathedral where all pilgrims end their journey.
Supposedly St. James is buried in the crypt under the altar here in a silver box, so we paid him a visit. Interestingly, they hold a special service each evening for pilgrims who completed the pilgrimage that day.
There was a mass going on when we visited the cathedral, and we stayed partially because the voices singing the mass were so rich and sonorous.
When we visited the cathedral we were transfixed first by the music and then by the incense. A mass was just starting, and the music was provided by a single, low, rich male voice accompanied by the huge organ.
It was impossible to leave! At the end of the mass we were thrilled to witness the swinging of the incense. Imagine 6 to 8 monks pulling in unison on the giant ropes that hold up the incensory as it swings like a pendulum higher and higher, almost to the ceiling, up to 75 feet in the air from one side of the cathedral to the other, right over the heads of the parishioners! Smoke pouring out everywhere. Very theatrical! The incensory weighs 175 pounds, and the charcoal plus incense burning in it adds another 90 pounds. Evidently in 1499, during a visit by Catherine of Aragon, something went wrong and the incensory flew right out the window at one end of the church.
We were most fortunate to witness the swinging of the incense as it is only done in such a big way in this cathedral, and it is only done there on special occasions (such as our arrival – just kidding).
For more details see here.
A youtube video of a swinging with no incense during the Pope´s visit in 2010 is here. We were surprised that we could not find a really good youtube movie of the incense swinging.
The movie, The Way, has a good incense swinging scene,
Other photos from Santiago de Compostela are below. Click on one to see a slide show.