In a few weeks time, the smallest state in the world will also become the busiest, as news crews and worshipers from all over the world pour into St Peter’s Square, to witness puffs of black smoke signaling the Papal Conclave. So how does the process work and what can you expect if you decide to visit Rome during this time?
Lightning striking the Vatican
On the Plus Side
One thing you can be sure of, if you have the patience to stand in St Peter’s Square, is that you will be watching history unfold. The resignation of a Pope is something that hasn’t happened in more than 600 years. If you weren’t in the square and didn’t see the lightning strike on the day Benedict XVI officially declared his intention to resign, you can at least see history made with the election of a new Pope. The last election was 11 years ago now and as most Pope’s stick around until their death, you only have a handful of chances in your lifetime to see this happen.
Papal Conclave in Rome
On the Negative Side
Electing a new Pope can take quite a long time. So long in fact that in the past it wasn’t unknown to lock the Cardinals in the voting chamber and tear off the roof of the building to speed up there voting. Given that this isn’t an option anymore, you’re going to need quite a lot of patience if you are going to stick this one out and witness the white smoke appear from the chimney.
new papal conclave
As hundreds of thousands of people pour into Rome to witness the Conclave, the price of everything starts to rise. This is especially so for hotels, which you can almost guarantee are pretty much fully booked. The other thing is that Vatican City for tourists pretty much shuts down, so if you had dreams about staring at the roof of the Sistine Chapel you can forget about them.