Prior to the bombardment of the abbey of Montecassino, an extensive task of removing and transferring the abbey's artifacts, Papal documents, and treasures took place over the course a few months. Montecassino held an important collection of some 800 papal documents, 100,000 prints, 200 fragile parchment manuscripts, over 80,000 volumes from the libraries, 500 incunabula (=a type of book which was printed and not handwritten before the 16th century), and pieces of priceless art and precious tapestries. Some of these books and documents had actually originally been transferred from the Keats-Shelley house in Rome to Montecassino for safe-keeping during WWII, only to then be sent back, but this time to the Vatican City and its fortified fortress Castel Sant'Angelo, nearly 80 miles away.

The project was proposed and directed in 1943 by German officer Captain Maximilian Becker and Austrian officer Lieutenant Colonel Julius Schlegel. The abbot Gregorio Diamare approved the plan, understanding that the 4th destruction of their home and abbey was imminent due to their location. With the help of Montecassino's monks, Italian refugees, and two officers, they scrambled to crate and haul away the priceless collection as quickly as possible. Every night trucks full of treasures and artifacts accompanied by two monks would make its way towards Rome, away from their sacred home yet towards somewhere safe. They finished the evacuation process by November, a few months before the foreseen bombing and destruction of the abbey in February 1944.

 

What came next was a massive decade-long project to restore and rebuild Montecassino, "where it was, as it was".