Black smoke from the Sistine Chapel: No new pope (1903)

Two more futile ballots in conclave of cardinals

No successor to Pope Leo XIII has yet been chosen. From the smoke which issued from the little chimney on the Sistine Chapel tonight, a vast multitude gathered around St Peter’s learned that the second day of the conclave had been fruitless.

The conclusion is drawn that the strength of the leading candidate remains unbroken and that no compromise candidate has yet appeared. And there is no indication of how long this condition of affairs will continue.

The prolongation of the contest has aroused tremendous public interest, if, indeed, it cannot be called excitement. Every trace of that apathy which followed the death of the late Pope has vanished, and instead there now exists a burning interest in everything pertaining to the election of his successor.

This culminated to-night in the appearance of a great crowd, which packed the square of St Peter’s and presented a spectacle seldom seen even at the site of so many historic ceremonies.

>> Also see: About the Papal conclave (1899)

The impenetrable seclusion which shrouds those engaged in determining who shall be at the head of the Catholic church heightens the feverish curiosity of those who awaited their decision. Princes, Princesses, Archbishops, Bishops, monsignors, priests, well-to-do business men—in short, persons from every walk of life, from that of nobleman to street beggar, talked of nothing but la fumanata (the signal smoke).

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Both this morning and this evening this was the lodestone which drew thousands to the square of St Peter’s. There, for four hours, with strained eyes and craned necks, they waited for a tiny little stream of smoke, so insignificant that it was almost impossible to realize that a great issue was involved in its fleeting appearance.

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