Are you ready to conclave?

From tomorrow it begins. The papal election will get under way and who will rush to the Vatican when the white smoke appears, the bells ring and a new pope is announced? Given that I’ll be at work 20km away, I’m unlikely to be able to join the faithful in St Peter’s Square.
   Bets are on for a decision on Thursday. However, just to warn you, some conclaves have lasted months. One such election taking place in 1549 lasted from November to February. This was despite rules that after 8 days the cardinals would be put on a bread and water diet to encourage the greedy prelates to reach a decision. Judging by the list of delights served, the rules weren’t followed quite so religiously. As one of the many cooks employed to serve the 1549 conclave, Bartolomei Scappi’s Opera (or Work) recorded the courses which fed the ever demanding cardinals. 

   Dishes included a couple of capons, biscuits and pastries, cold meats, a piece of veal, pigeon pie, roast thrush, salame, salad, cheeses and desert. It’s no wonder that they were happy enough to prolong the process.

   So while to be a cardinal might truly be a blessing, according to Nanni Moretti’s 2011 film Habemus Papam, the highest office might simply be too much for most of them. Should we believe the premise of the film that most of the cardinals over the next few days will be praying to avoid the honour of becoming the Lord’s First Servant? Or that they’ll be organising an international volleyball match to pass the hours? Something to think about. Have a look at the trailer …


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