Tapestries from a priceless set of 29 on display at the museum of St John's Co-Cathedral in Valletta, will be taken to Belgium next week. Transpak handles Packing and Moving of these Fine Arts.

Two of a set of 29 tapestries at St John's Co-Cathedral are to be restored. Photo: Chris Sant Fournier.

Two tapestries, from a priceless set of 29 on display at the museum of St John's Co-Cathedral in Valletta, will be taken to Belgium next week for much-needed restoration at the world renowned De Wit Laboratories.

The rest are expected to be sent to Belgium gradually over the next eight to 10 years, in a project estimated to cost around Lm300,000.

The Belgian Ministry of Defence is providing transportation for the two tapestries on a cargo plane.

The tapestries had been commissioned by Aragonese Grandmaster Ramon Perellos y Roccaful in the late 17th century. They were woven at the Flemish atelier of Judecos de Vos, which was famous for being the court weaver of Louis XIV. They arrived in Malta in 1701 and museum curator Cynthia de Giorgio said the Grandmaster had sent his personal assistant to bring them to Malta, a process that took six months.

At the time the full set had cost the equivalent of Lm10,000. Insurance companies now consider them priceless. Dr de Giorgio said the restoration would start with the removal of dust particles, followed by cleaning of the tapestries, consolidation of lost parts, filling in of missing parts and stitching of open seams.

She explained that the tapestries were made of wool and silk with some of them having lost up to 35 per cent of their silk. They were made specifically to line the nave of the co-cathedral. Once the restoration works are complete towards the end of next year the two tapestries - a portrait of the Aragonese Grandmaster and one depicting the Triumph of the Catholic Church - will be exhibited in Brussels as part of the Europalia exhibition.

Belgian Ambassador Thomas Baecklandt said the set is one of the largest in the world and also one of the few that remains complete.

"There are enough Belgian links for us to do a little effort and help with the restoration," he said during a press conference yesterday. He said 80 per cent of Belgian tourists visit the co-cathedral to see the tapestries. Despite their prestige the tapestries were not well taken care of, Mgr Philip Calleja, the president of the St John's Co-Cathedral Foundation, said.