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A small army of some of the world's finest art restorers is preserving the Vatican's unrivalled artistic chronicle of the past.
Beneath the Vatican museums and galleries, in an area closed to tourists, the artisans toil away in three restoration laboratories: for marble, for tapestries and for painting.
With the amount of art, and with so much of it being centuries old, there is always another beautiful problem to solve.
The man responsible for the conservation and restoration of the Vatican's vast painting collection is Maestro Maurizio de Luca.
"To understand why the pope has such collections, one can't just think of today's pope, one must think about what the church and the pope have meant over the centuries," said Maurizio. "The popes and their court, at the time, were the greatest supporters of culture. This is the place where the popes put some of the greatest artists to work and these have now become collections."
Maestro de Luca compares the restoration labs to a peculiar kind of hospital.
"Well, there are many kinds of doctors in this hospital. We have to be ready for any artistic emergency that might arise. But we are fortunate. No one else in the world has the opportunity to do what we do, to have so many different works and to take care of them all the time."
In one of the oldest wards of this hospital, a series of brilliant tapestries is being restored. Designed for the Sistine Chapel by the renaissance master, Raphael, the tapestries are luminous renderings in silk, wool and gold.
But time, and poor restorations, have ravaged these irreplaceable works.
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