The 2013 papal election is the 75th conclave in the history of the Catholic church since 1295. At that time, Pope Boniface VIII ruled that cardinals to elect a pope had to stay in a locked room – cum clave (Latin for "with a key").
The 115 voting cardinals will elect the 265th successor of St. Peter. Simon Peter or Cephas (32-67) is regarded as the first pope and founder, with St. Paul, of the see of Rome.
Just before the conclave starts a “pro eligendo Summo Pontefice” Mass, asking God to enlighten the cardinals in their choice, is celebrated in St Peter's Basilica under Michelangelo's dome.
Chanting the litany of the Saints and seeking inspiration from the Holy Spirit, the cardinals enter the Sistine Chapel in a solemn procession. They swear oaths of secrecy at the marble altar behind Michelangelo's Last Judgement frescoes.
To vote, the cardinals sit on cherry wood chairs at specially built rows of tables which are covered in beige and bordeaux fabric.
To prepare for the conclave, every small detail is taken care of.
The cardinals will cast their votes on a slip of paper. The placed into a small plate which is used to tip the paper into a silver and gilded bronze urn.
Once the ballots are counted and recorded, they are placed in another urn on a wooden table to be burned.
Two stoves are used for the ballot burning process.
The one where the ballots will be burned was first used in 1939 to elect Pope Pius XII. Another, more modern stove was introduced in 2005 to augment smoke and send a clear signal out to St. Peter’s square.
If there is no result, chemicals are added in the modern stove to produce black smoke.
If a pope is elected, a white cartridge produces white smoke, which floats up the chimney above the chapel to announce the new pope.
Copper stovepipes protruding from the top of each stove are joined into a single pipe. Supported by brass scaffolding, the pipe runs up out of the window to the chimney.
The chimney will be the star of St. Peter Square during the conclave days. From the white smoke puffs and the sound of ringing bells, it usually takes about 40 minutes for the new pope to appear on the Basilica's balcony
The new Pope will be announced from the balcony by the French cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran with the famous Latin formula "Annuntio vobis gaudium magnum. Habemus papam." (I announce to you a great joy. We have a pope!)
The new Pope will be the 266th in the history of the Roman Catholic Church.