Sunday 17 December 2017

Lise Hand: Nuns on run break into a sprint for the basilica as if it were a Clerys sale

It was 7.40pm when a roar rose from the massive crowd in a rain-soaked St Peter's Square.

Above them, the chimney spluttered to life as a grey smoke appeared, but it rapidly turned to an inky black, and nobody was in any doubt. Non habemus papam at the first time of trying.

It had been a long day of chimney-watching. In a stark contrast to the sumptuous surrounds of the interior of St Peter's Basilica, the conclave stovepipe is decidedly modest. It's a 3ft cast-iron, flat-topped cylinder, and it has just been pressed into service for the seventh time since 1939 when it coughed out white smoke for the election of Pope Pius XII.

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