Adolf Hitler intended to recreate the Vatican's St Peter's Square in Berlin to honour his ally Benito Mussolini, newly discovered documents have revealed.
Albert Speer, the Nazi leader's chief architect, was commissioned to draw up the plans, which have been discovered by historians examining his papers.
They had been stored in a secret room inside Moscow's Museum of Architecture after being taken to Russia at the end of World War II. There were more than 200 boxes of files belonging to Speer, whose grand designs for the rebuilding of Nazi Berlin were already well known.
But the plans for a new, Germanic version of St Peter's Square, complete with a giant statue of Mussolini, have astonished historians.
Speer even built a scale model of how he planned to recreate the piazza's columns.
The Moscow museum's director, David Sarkisian, said: "The plan was for the new Berlin to be ready in 1950 after Nazi Germany had defeated the Allies. Hitler would declare Germany the ruler of a world empire, and at the centre of its capital … was to be a recreation of St Peter's Square in the Vatican."
Mr Sarkisian said Speer's plans included the columns from the square and at the centre instead of an obelisk, as in Rome, there would be a huge statue of Mussolini.
"Hitler considered the Eternal City to be the only city in the world to rival Berlin so he wanted to better it in every way possible."
Speer's documents show that Hitler took a great interest in the plans and was delighted with the architect's model. He also viewed several castings of Mussolini's statue that were commissioned but the plans were eventually abandoned at the end of 1943.
At the end of the war Speer was tried in Nuremberg and sentenced to 20 years' jail. After his release from Spandau prison in 1966 he published his memoirs and died in London 15 years later.