Heinrich Himmler, the head of the Nazi SS, made a secret wartime mission to an abbey in Spain in search of what he believed was the Aryan Holy Grail, a new book claims.
Himmler visited the famous Montserrat Abbey near Barcelona where he thought he would find the Grail which Jesus Christ was said to have used to consecrate the Last Supper.
According to The Desecrated Abbey, by Montserrat Rico Góngora, the Reichsführer-SS thought if he could lay claim to the Holy Grail it would help Germany win the war and give him supernatural powers.
The book claims that, far from being the King of the Jews, Himmler shared the outlandish belief with other leading Nazis that Jesus Christ was actually descended from Aryan stock.
Góngora writes that Himmler, Hitler's right-hand man, believed Jacob was of Aryan blood and his descendants, including Jesus Christ, were Aryan too.
Góngora has interviewed a former monk who was ordered by his superiors to greet Himmler during the visit in 1940.
Now a pensioner living in an old people's home near Barcelona, Andreu Ripol Noble was at the time the only German-speaker in the abbey and was asked to help Himmler with his odd quest.
Antoni Maria Marcet, the abbot, knew Himmler had launched public attacks on the Catholic Church in Germany and had no time for him, the book claims. But Ripol related how Himmler came to Montserrat inspired by Richard Wagner's opera Parsifal, which mentions the Holy Grail could be in kept in "the marvellous castle of Montsalvat in the Pyrenees".
It was widely believed in Nazi circles that this castle was Montserrat, a belief strengthened by the fact the first performance of the opera was held at the Liceu Opera House in Barcelona in 1913. Others have said it was Montségur in France.
Wagner is thought to have been inspired by the writings of the 13th troubadour Wolfram von Eschenbach and scores of other writers who claimed to know where the sacred chalice used by Christ at the Last Supper lay.
According to Góngora, Himmler was also inspired by a folk song from Catalonia, the north-eastern region in which Montserrat lies, which has a cryptic reference to a "mystical font of life" situated in the area.
Himmler, a former chicken farmer who rose through the Nazi ranks to become Hitler's most trusted lieutenant, is known to have an interest in racial mysticism.
After initially proclaiming himself a Catholic, Himmler had started to attack the German church more publicly, and increasingly turned to a fanatical belief in racially based paganism.
But, the book claims, despite his quest to find the Grail, he came away from Montserrat empty-handed.
Himmler was in Barcelona while Hitler was holding a conference with the newly installed Spanish dictator, General Francisco Franco, in October 1940. Hitler believed he could persuade Franco to join the war on Germany's side.
But with Spain ravaged after three years of civil war, Franco refused to take sides and officially at least, remained neutral.
Hitler was said to be furious and told the Italian leader, Benito Mussolini, that Franco was a "coward". The Spanish press at the time reported Himmler's visit in bland terms, noting only that he had given 25,000 pesetas towards the repair of a local reservoir.
The Reichsführer is known to have stayed at the Ritz hotel in Barcelona and made his hour-long journey to Montserrat surrounded by "blond-haired SS men", reports at the time said.
The Desecrated Abbey by Montserrat Rico Góngora is published by Planeta in Spanish today