SPAIN, March 11, 2012 – In Northwest Spain, Santiago de Compostela boasts a Cathedral that stands out from the mass.
Built over the 13th and 14th centuries and gothic in style, the building appears as if Atlantis had surfaced there. In the dim light of a cloudy day, the windows are tinted green by oxidation and ornate spires and sculptures of the façade soar to neck-wrenching heights.
Since an intricate stained-glass restoration is in its final phases, one can climb the scaffolding to the roof and enter the cathedral through a window. On a restoration platform, tourists have a close-up view of the windows, stained-glass mosaics depicting all things Christian.
Also open to the public is the roof, which is made of angled steps to facilitate walking. The roof is the highest point in the city, with an unsurpassed view of the orange, terracotta roofs that weave together for miles into faded mountains in the distance.
Spanning 318 feet and rising 72 feet, the cathedral is one of the largest Romanesque churches in all of Europe and certainly Spain.
Many believe that the church guards the buried remains of the apostle Saint James. So many, in fact, that the cathedral was the destination of the Way of St. James, one of the most important Christian pilgrimages during the Middle Ages.
While Saint James’ remains still attract tourists, the cathedral’s claim to fame is the Botafumeiro, one of the city’s most prominent icons. The coal and incense-filled censer dispenses scent-laced clouds by means of a pulley mechanism that swings it back and forth.
Weighing 176 pounds and at 5 ¼ feet in height, the censer is the largest in the world.
Eight red-robed tiraboleiros heave the rope contraption in unison until it picks up speed and comes close to touching the barrel-vaulted ceiling. While some become emotional and others find it exciting, all watch in amazement at the sacred swing of the butafumeiro.
The most common explanation of the 700-year-old custom is that it helped to mask the stench of throngs of dirty pilgrims.
When it slows, yet maintains sufficient momentum, one skillful tiraboleiro grasps the censor, jerks it off course and spins harmoniously with it until both come to a stop.
After 700 years, it’s good to know that at least one Spanish cathedral still has the swing of things.
This article is the copyrighted property of the writer and Communities @ WashingtonTimes.com. Written permission must be obtained before reprint in online or print media. REPRINTING TWTC CONTENT WITHOUT PERMISSION AND/OR PAYMENT IS THEFT AND PUNISHABLE BY LAW.