The famed Shroud of Turin was secretly hidden in a Benedictine abbey in Southern Italy during World War II because the Vatican feared that German dictator Adolf Hitler wanted to steal it.

The shroud, said to be the burial cloth of Christ, was transferred for its safety to the Benedictine sanctuary of Montevergine in Avellino, in the southern Campania region of Italy in 1939 and was only transferred to Turin in 1946, according to a British newspaper, The Telegraph.

“The current director of the library at the abbey, Father Andrea Cardin, said the reason behind the move was because Hitler was “obsessed” with the sacred relic,” the publication reported.

“Both the Vatican and the Italian royal family, the Savoys, who were the guardians and owners of the shroud, feared that the German leader, who had an interest in the esoteric, might try to steal the linen cloth,” it added.

Cardin told Italian magazine Diva e Donna that officially the moving of the shroud was to protect it from possible bombing in Turin, but in reality it was to hide it from Hitler.

“When he visited Italy in 1938, top-ranking Nazi aides asked unusual and insistent questions about the Shroud,” Cardin told the magazine.

Cardin said that Italy entered the war in alliance with Hitler, and German forces were sent to Italy, the shroud was very nearly discovered in its secret hiding place.

“In 1943 when German troops searched the Montevergine church, the monks there pretended to be in deep prayer before the altar, inside which the relic was hidden,” he told the magazine. “This was the only reason it wasn’t discovered.”

The shroud, which is supposed to have wrapped Christ’s body after he was crucified, was returned to Turin in 1946 on the orders of Italy’s last king, Umberto II.

The monarchy was abolished in 1946 when Italy voted in a referendum to become a republic, and ownership of the shroud eventually passed to the Holy See, wrote The Telegraph.