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What is the Incense Burner in the Catholic Church Called a Censer?

what is the incense burner in the catholic church called

In the Catholic church, censers are used to burn aromatic incense during prayer and ceremonies. According to tradition, the smoke from burning incense symbolizes prayers being lifted up into heaven by its faithful users.

Incense is a fragrant resin made from certain trees and available in several varieties. The most widely used variety is frankincense, an ancient natural resin given to Jesus by the Magi in biblical times.


In the Catholic church, incense burners are referred to as “thuribles.”

In Exodus 30:1-10 of the Bible, God instructs Moses to construct an altar for burning incense on. This altar should stand before the tabernacle of sacrifice (see Exodus 30:1-10).

In the church, incense is a blend of resins, benzoin, frankincense and myrrh. Its aroma is biblical and a reminder of Jesus’ selfless love for us.

A thurible is typically a metal censer held up by chains to hold the incense in place. Inside it lies a round disk of charcoal on which the priest spoons some incense for smoke production.

When the priest swings the thurible, incense fills the air as he makes two vertical and one horizontal swings. This ritual occurs throughout all parts of Mass.

The thurible is also used during funerals as a symbol of the sacrificed love of the deceased. A priest will incense the coffin before it is taken to be interred, signifying its importance in honoring those departed.


The “thurible”, an incense burner used in Catholic churches, hangs from a chain that allows it to be swung around and disperse smoke amongst the congregation. This striking piece of liturgical equipment is used by priests during Mass, Divine Office or Benediction of Blessed Sacrament services.

In the Old Testament, incense was an integral part of Jewish worship and offered to various pagan gods as well. Therefore, it’s no shock that early Christian writers such as St. Paul saw its use as a negative practice and thus discouraged its use.

Incense has a special significance in Christianity and is used extensively throughout church liturgies around the globe. It symbolizes both the sanctifying grace of the Holy Spirit and prayers from saints as they ascend into Heaven.

It is also a powerful symbol of purification, an idea found throughout the Bible and book of Revelation. Smoke from burning incense is used to cleanse hands before receiving Communion.

The oldest and largest thurible in the Catholic church, located in Santiago de Compostela, Spain, is called Botafumeiro (smoke expeller). It requires eight men (tiraboleiros) to operate it during mass so that it swings and expels aromatic smoke.


A boat is a type of liturgical vessel used for burning incense during religious ceremonies. It usually hangs from a chain, allowing it to be swung around as the priest or other clergy member walks through the church, dispersing smoke as they pass by.

A thurible is an incense burner, larger than its boat counterpart. It holds incense and features a large, illuminated chervil insert which glows when filled with hot coals. It is carried by an altar server known as a boat bearer.

The boat, sometimes referred to as a Latin navicula, is a small metal container containing incense supplies used during Mass or other liturgical services. It also includes an attached spoon which makes transferring incense from the boat to the church censer easier.

The distinction between a boat and ship usually comes down to their size, function, and whether they are operated manually or electrically. Typically, ships are larger with sails for ocean navigation; however, boats come in various shapes and sizes for various uses like fishing, day trips, police workboats or workboats.


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