When they are not in the Sistine Chapel, seated under Michelangelo's frescoes to vote for the next pope, the cardinal-electors will stay in a modern guesthouse that offers them both privacy and space to gather for relaxed conversation, reports the Catholic News Service.
The Domus Sanctae Marthae, a hospitality residence named after St Martha, lies on the edge of Vatican City. Most of the cardinals will take short bus rides to the Sistine Chapel for their twice-daily voting sessions, although during the 2005 conclave, some cardinals insisted on walking - under the protective gaze of Vatican security - behind St Peter's Basilica and into the chapel.
The five-story residence was built in 1996 and normally houses clerical and lay guests attending Vatican conferences and events. But for the conclave, its 131 rooms will be cleared out, and the cardinals will move in.
The Domus is just inside the Vatican walls, and its upper floors can be seen by Rome apartment buildings; for the 2005 conclave, the shutters on the windows were locked to ensure no one could see in. Of course, that also meant the cardinals could not see out.
The building will be off-limits to "unauthorized persons" during the conclave, but staff will be needed to cook and clean. Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, who serves as the camerlengo or chamberlain, and three cardinal assistants are required to vet the personnel.
Like the cardinals, staff members are required to take an oath of silence, promising "absolute and perpetual secrecy" regarding anything related to the election.
They also must "promise and swear to refrain from using any audio or video equipment capable of recording anything which takes place during the period of the election within Vatican City."
FULL STORY Vatican guesthouse offers cardinals privacy, comfort (CNS)