Vatican City, 9 March 2013 (VIS) – The chimney on the roof of the Sistine Chapel, which will emit the smoke to indicating the election (white smoke) or non-election (black smoke) of a pope, was installed this morning, three days before the Conclave is scheduled to begin. That, however, is not the only change taking place in the chapel. Vatican Television is recording the preparations and those images are then distributed to all media outlets that request it for broadcasting around the world.
Work began on Tuesday, 5 March, at 1:00pm when restorers, electricians, mechanics, carpenters, seamstresses, assemblers, electronic technicians and other labourers from various areas of competence suddenly replaced the hundreds of tourists who visit the Sistine Chapel every day. “The Chapel is closed to the public. We are preparing for the Conclave,” employees respond to the questions asked by perplexed visitors who are trying to finish their tour of the Vatican Museums with a glimpse of Michelangelo's “Creation of Adam”.
Journalists are already in the know. The Director of the Holy See Press Office, Fr. Federico Lombardi, S.J., has been holding daily press conferences, giving a general overview of the proceedings of the General Congregations and explaining the images of the preparations that are being carried out around Vatican City. From within the Sistine Chapel we see scaffolding around the stoves that will burn the ballots to erect the stove pipe that releases the smoke from the roof of the chapel, shorter tubing for the scaffolding that will elevate the floor and create a uniform area to work on, lengths of cloth and the seamstresses sowing them together to create table covers...
On Wednesday, 6 March, for example, Vatican Television provided raw video of workers installing a large platform for the chimney and flooring sheets over the original mosaic pavement, both to protect the mosaics and to make it easier to build the elevated floor above it, which will provide the cardinals with an even expanse to walk and work upon.
Around the altar, 115 cherry wood chairs have been put in place, each engraved with the name of the cardinal who will occupy it, with 12 wooden tables covered in beige and bordeaux fabric where the cardinals will prepare their ballots. They will cast their votes in front of Michelangelo's fresco of “The Last Judgment” on the wall of the altar.
After the chimney is installed it will be submitted to a series of tests using chemicals to emit a yellow smoke so as not to confuse the increased number of passers-by in St. Peter's Square. The chimney is just the last piece of the mechanism that will produce the smoke. The two iron stoves it is attached to were installed yesterday. The first stove, cast in 1938, has the dates of the five Conclaves it has been used in etched upon it—from the one electing Pius XII in 1939 until the latest, in 2005, when Cardinal Ratzinger became Benedict XVI.
This older oven is used to burn the balloting papers. The modern one, equipped with an electronic device, will add the chemicals to produce the black or white smoke indicating the result of the voting until the election occurs. There are two voting sessions planned for each morning and each afternoon that the Conclave continues. At the moment, the chimney is at the centre of the media's curiosity. Next Tuesday afternoon it will hold the attention of millions around the world.
Besides the Cardinal electors, the only others who will be present in the Sistine Chapel are the Master of Papal Liturgical Celebrations and Cardinal Prospero Grech, O.S.A., who will preach the second meditation provided for in No. 13 of the Apostolic Constitution “Universi Dominici Gregis” to the Cardinal electors.