In this photo provided by the Vatican newspaper L'Osservatore Romano, cardinals attend a meeting, at the Vatican, Monday, March 4, 2013. Cardinals from around the world have gathered inside the Vatican for their first round of meetings before the conclave to elect the next pope.
VATICAN CITY - The clearest sign yet that a papal election is nearing has arrived, with the Sistine Chapel announcing it is closing to visitors.
As of 1 p.m. Tuesday, Michelangelo's frescoed masterpiece will be sealed to tourists as Vatican workers put it into shape for the conclave: In 2005, the last time the College of Cardinals elected a pope, those preparations included installing a false floor to hide anti-bugging devices and attaching the stove, where the ballots are burned, to the Sistine Chapel's chimney.
Tuesday also brought a second day of pre-conclave meetings with cardinals to organize the election process and get to know one another. With a handful of cardinals still travelling to Rome, no date has yet been set for the start of the conclave.