I saw this video this morning on the Bishop of Buckingham's Blog, and was somewhat amazed. It's at the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela (supposed burial place of Jesus' brother, in Spain).
The physics is somewhat cool - it's a pendulum, and you can see the rope-pullers pulling in phase with the pendulum swing, hence adding in energy at a frequency which the pendulum can't lose easily, which means it swings more and more.
Plenty of other random thoughts too though:
- health and safety... Apparently in 1499, it came off the rope and flew through a high window in the cathedral. But that's about the size and weight of a person - how much damage could it do if the rope broke? (Geeky note - the tension in the rope is highest at the bottom of the swing) Or if someone got in the way?
- Distraction from the service - like anyone is going to be paying any attention to anything else...
- How do the rope-pullers keep breathing with that much incense around them?
- I'm really not a fan of applause in church
- I think the whole thing seems to detract from the point of incense. As Catholic friends have explained it, incense is about emphasising God's transcendence through production of CO, impairment of vision, strong aromatic odour, etc. But all it would do in that context would be reminding you of how nifty and whatever the botafumey thing was.