Sistine Chapel closing for conclave preparations

Part of the artwork of Michelangelo that adorns the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel at the Vatican, Italy.

The Sistine Chapel is closing to the public Tuesday afternoon so that Catholic officials can prepare for an eventual conclave to elect a new pope, the Vatican announced.

Catholic cardinals have yet to announce when the conclave to elect Pope Benedict XVI's successor would start. On Monday they began a series of meetings designed to, among other things, decide when the conclave will begin. They were due to continue these meetings, known as General Congregations, Tuesday and Wednesday.

The closure of the Sistine Chapel, where the conclave will be held, was scheduled for 1 p.m. local time (7 a.m. ET).