Here’s more about a prominent aspect of the Papal Conclave — the means by which results are announced to the world.


Once the ballots are counted, they are burned in a special stove erected in the Sistine Chapel. The smoke escapes through a small chimney visible from St. Peter’s Square.

Black smoke until the final vote when it’s white smoke.

Dull men will be curious, naturally, as to what causes the black smoke to be black instead of white.

We found the answer thanks to Wikipedia.

Black Smoke. The ballots from an unsuccessful vote are burned along with a chemical compound to create black smoke, or (fumata nera). Years ago wet straw was used to produce the black smoke.But this was not completely reliable. The chemical compound is more reliable than the straw.

White Smoke. When a vote is successful, the ballots are burned alone, sending white smoke (fumata bianca) through the chimney and announcing to the world the election of a new pope.

At the end of the conclave, church bells ring to signal that a new pope had been chosen.