Habemus papam question

Des anyone know how the habemus papam announcement was done before microphones?
I founbd these rare photos which shows a cardinal announcing the election of Cardinal Sarto (Pope St. Pius X)–>>(Judging by the clothing of the time) upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/b/ba/HabemuspapmLuigiMacchi.jpg

What I want to know is that how was it done without microphones? Did they wave a flag or something? I know the announcement of a new pope go back to medieval time (Even before that).

After the ballots were counted, they were burned - the black smoke coming from the chimney meant no new pope. If a pope had been elected, wet straw was added to the ballots. The steam produced made the smoke white, so people knew to celebrate. But I doubt many could hear the name being proclaimed, and instead they probably had to rely on word of mouth from further forward in the crowd.

They did it the way everyone who had to make a public statement did it – you speak loudly and cast your voice! :wink:

Wow! Then the Cardinal must have had a pretty loud voice to address the announcement to all those people:okpeople:

There are techniques to project your voice into an audience. They used to teach that kind of stuff when students learned rhetoric. There is a scene of such a technique being taught in the movie “The Great Debaters”, where with plug in their mouths they have to say their lines from shore so the professor can clearly understand sitting in a boat in the middle of the lake.

Think of actors and singers - without microphones they used to have to project their voice so that every word was heard in theatres full of thousands of people.

Opera singers sometimes still have to do so today, if memory serves - and have to be even louder than actors, as they have to compete with the sound of a full orchestra!

It can be done, and was and is done regularly.

Of course there are other tricks. I’ve read that Julius Caesar, when he had to make speeches to big crowds, would put people among the audience who had the job of repeating his words to those who were further back and thus might’ve not heard him.

BTW, I think it is *wet *straw to produce blacker smoke and *dry *straw to produce whiter smoke. But my days as a pyromaniac altar server days are (mostly) past.


Exactly. And also, if not everyone in the piazza hears the announcement … um, too bad. I’m sure ticket refunds were available at the gate.

Hehe. And I’m sure they found out quickly enough regardless.

But remember all the priests had to preach in those huge churches and Cathedrals with no microphones - and they really DID have to make sure everyone heard 'em, because the preaching was part of the reason the congregation was there.

So I’m sure no-one needed to ask for a refund :smiley:

Also, the audience/congregation knew to be quiet. That’s part of the reason why whisperers and snorers were hushed–so that everyone could hear. There wasn’t as much background noise often also. Traffic would stop nearby and no jets, cars on the highway, etc.

goodness, what did they do with the crying babies and boisterous toddlers? also those old churches were built with good acoustics, but the announcement of a new Pope is done to the crowd outdoors. I am sure they knew how to project their voices in those days, and also that those who heard repeated the name to those who didn’t (wonder how many got it wrong until they read it in the paper).

In “those days” I do not think as many people where there as there are today.

Long distance communications were not that good or reliable so some people would not know the pope had died until they found out there was a new pope.

I don’t know – Rome has always had a large population. Even without any foreign visitors, the people of Rome could easily overwhelm the capacity of the Saint Peter’s Square.

Ha! :slight_smile: I was thinking more about theaters, opera and the like. But you are right, some people just didn’t know or would get it wrong. Likely for weeks after the event.

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