Sistine chimney: cast-iron oven, with fumigator

Vatican installed auxiliary stove in 2005

VATICAN CITY - Firefighters have installed the top of the Sistine Chapel chimney that will signal to the world that a new pope has been elected, while construction workers were preparing the chapel interior for the start of the papal conclave Tuesday.

For such an important decision, the chimney is an awfully simple affair: a century-old cast iron stove where ballot papers are burned, with a copper pipe out the top that snakes up the Sistine's frescoed walls, out the window and onto the chapel roof.

After years of confusion about whether the smoke was black (no pope) or white (pope), the Vatican in 2005 installed an auxiliary stove where fumigating cases are lit. The smoke from those cases -- black or white -- joins the burned ballot smoke out the chimney.

But the biggest challenge may be the papal installation a few days later. That'll feature presidents, prime ministers and throngs of pilgrims. Officials say a detailed game plan includes helicopters -- and thousands of extra officers.

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