For decades, the responsibility for saving the tapestries has been borne by a small group of Franciscan sisters and other artisans.
Sister Angela Messina has dedicated her life to restoring them and has worked here for 35 years. She has the unenviable task of taking a pair of scissors and cutting into a priceless masterpiece.
"Yes, honestly it is something too precious so we try to be extremely careful," said Sister Angela. "We try to not remove some of the oldest restorations like this part here which is in silk. So it is very important to leave the original. This is why I do it very slowlystitch by stitch, eliminating this old area so that really none of the original will be taken."
In addition to patience and a surgeon's touch, the heart of a tapestry restoration is thread, and the lab can boast a library featuring more than six thousand different shades.
They've already spent three years restoring one tapestry and it will take another year to finish, and then Sister Angela and her colleagues will move to the next, for this beautiful work is just one in a series of ten.
Inside the Vatican: Front Page
St. Peter's Basilica
The Swiss Guards
The Pope's Day
The World's Most Beautiful Stuff
The Holy See
Electing a New Pope
The Secret Archives
The Making of Inside the Vatican
Kids Activity Guide
Source: Excerpt from Inside the Vatican, a National Geographic Television special that airs in the United States on the National Geographic Channel and is available as a book.