Catherine Of Aragon’s Dramatic Visit To Santiago

Santiago de Compostela – a place of pilgrimage since medieval times

On a recent trip to Santiago de Compostela in Spain, a place of pilgrimage for Catholics since medieval times, we learnt of an event that took place at the Cathedral in 1499.

Princess Catherine’s visit to the Cathedral of Santiago

00aragon2A young Princess Catherine of Aragon travelled through Santiago on her way to marry the heir to the English throne. 

The Cathedral has a tradition of using a giant thurible called the Botafumeiro. This grand, massive object is used on special occasions to burn incense for sacramental reasons and to give a nice smell to the Cathedral. In ancient times poor pilgrims would arrive at the cathedral after months of travel, and smelt really bad.

It takes several people to raise the heavy thurible, using ropes tied to a pully system. It is then swung from side to side to release the incense.

During Catherine’s visit,  in the middle of the ceremony, as the monks swung the Botafumeiro, its ropes snapped and it was thrown out of a Cathedral window!


Could this have been an omen?

Accidents like this are very rare. Could it have been a warning sign marking the difficult future Catherine would have?

Following her visit, the young Princess married Prince Arthur but he died after only six months of marriage. Catherine, a young widow, then married her husband’s younger brother, Henry VIII,  who divorced her after failing to provide him with a male heir. The divorce led to the separation of the Church of England from the Catholic Church in Rome.

Catherine died in England in 1536. Her only surviving child, Mary Tudor, became queen in 1553.

Watch the thrilling video of the Botafumeiro in action.


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