As Papal Conclave Vote Comes, Go Inside the Vatican Tourists Don't See

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By Michael Kelley

This week the Vatican's papal conclave began the process of choosing the next spiritual leader of 1.18 billion Catholics worldwide. White smoke poured from the Sistine Chapel chimney on Wednesday, indicating a new pope was elected. The conclave voted amid Michelangelo's imposing frescoes imagining the beginning and the end of the world.

The majority of the 108-acre country (Vatican City is the world's smallest independent state) -- including towers, apartments, restoration labs, tombs and secret archives -- is off-limits to people without a Vatican City passport. For a rare look inside the Holy See, we pulled up exclusive videos by National Geographic and History Channel.

AOL Real Estate contributed to this report.

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See the Parts of the Vatican Off-Limits to Tourists
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As Papal Conclave Vote Comes, Go Inside the Vatican Tourists Don't See

The next pope will prepare to engage the masses in his private office above St. Peter's Square.

The cardinals sleep and eat at the Domus Sanctae Marthae, a residence in Vatican City, during the conclave process.

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Each day, they walk from the Domus Sanctae Marthae to the Sistine Chapel, where voting is conducted.

Wikimedia Commons

The Council for the Proclamation of Saints decides who is canonized in this off-limits conference room.

The pope and his assistants will prepare letters and official documents in the study of the Papal Apartments.

The pope entertains guests in a private dining room, where the food is "simple, but good."

Pope Benedict occasionally played piano in the private papal living room.

The Swiss Guard, the world's smallest standing army, stocks its gear under the streets of Vatican City.

The garments that the guards wear under their 8-pound uniforms are made from scratch in the tailoring room.

The Papal Sacristy (the pope's walk-in closet) holds treasures handed down from previous popes.

Three restoration laboratories for marble, tapestries and paintings sit beneath the Vatican's museums and galleries.

Tapestries are rehabilitated in this immaculate white room.

This two-story underground bunker houses the secret archives.

The archives comprise over 50 miles of shelves that include invaluable artifacts, such as a note written by Michelangelo dated January 1550.

In a room near the secret archives, one man restores the thousands of wax seals from letters sent to the Vatican over the centuries.

The Vatican Printing Press, which was founded in 1626, handles over 5,000 orders per year printed in at least 15 languages.

The Vatican radio station broadcasts in 40 different languages (and costs $25 million per year to run).

The body of Pope John Paul II lies in the grottoes below St. Peter's Basilica.

Also under St. Peter's basilica is the supposed tomb of St. Peter (i.e. the first pope).

The Room of Tears is where the new Pope will put on his white papal vestment for the first time.

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