What is the Great Thurible?

Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela - courtesy sedoglia - CC-BY

What is the Great Thurible?

A – A long lost uncle by marriage that just left you wealthy.

B – A Norse godling.

C – A new super-hero with the ability to throw lighting bolts.

D – None of the above.

The answer is D.  I’m sure most of you knew from the beginning that a thurible is the small metal fire pot for burning incense and suspended from chains, that several denominations of Christianity use during services.

Among the liturgical churches, while there may be major differences within the liturgies themselves, the use of a thurible and incense has, for the most part, remained a ‘constant’ between them as to when it is used and how.

Now the ‘how’ can vary greatly.  While a thurible is a thurible, the way it is handled can make a world of difference in the quality of the service. If an Eastern Orthodox Deacon is heading your direction swinging a thurible, it

is up to you to get out of the way.  Don’t get between Orthodox clergy and their objective.  They have flaming weapons.    I have seen Roman Catholic and Episcopalian priests and altar boys barely move the thing as though they are afraid the fire is going to jump out and get ‘em.  Then there are those ‘thurible cowboys’ for whom handling a thurible is a show in its own right with twirling it above their head and having half the congregation hoping it doesn’t fly off the chain.  The thurible is also used in some Lutheran as well as various ‘old catholic’ churches.

So what is the ‘Great Thurible?’  Well, to begin with, it is a little larger than the standard thurible.  No altar boy or priest can swing it as it is as tall as they are.  One story has it that the Great thurible was once used to hide the smell of the masses of pilgrims who had made long journeys to get there.  Today it is used during special masses and holidays.  During Pope Benedict’s visit to the cathedral today (Nov. 5 ’10) some news reports said he had almost a look of ‘awe’ as he watched the thurible in use.

If you like liturgical Christian worship, you should love this.  If you don’t appreciate liturgical Christian worship, it is still an amazing sight worth seeing.  The thurible even draws applause.

The Great Thurible of Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela, Spain.

For more information about Spain

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1 Comment

  • eiffel says:

    The Botafumeiro video is awesome, digs. It’s almost worth making the pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela just to see it in action.

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