Italian Chapel Orkney, Images, Pictures & Photos { 32 images } Created 14 Feb 2015

Images, pictures & photos of the incredible painted decorations of the Italian Chapel at Lamb Holm, Orkney, Scotland.
On the 13th of October 1939 Lt. Gunther Prien navigated his German U-boat U47 through what was thought to be an unnavigable channel, Kirk sound, into Scapa flow. At the time Scapa Flow was the harbour for the North Atlantic Fleet and the battleship HMS Royal Oak which was lying at anchor. Gunther Prien torpedoed the Battleship which sank in minutes with the loss of its 833 crew. He then remarkably slipped out of Scapa flow through Kirk sound.

The unimaginable had happened and the well protected harbour at Scapa Flow had been breached. To ensure this did not happen again it was decide to build causeways across Kirk sound. By 1942 a serious shortage of local labour threatened the project so Italian Prisoners of war were moved to Orkney to carry out the work.

In 1942 the priests in the camp, Father Giacobazzi and Domenico Chiocchetti, were given 2 nissen huts and they started the construction of their church. In 1943 Italy capitulated and the status of the Italian prisoners changed and they were no longer prisoners of war. They were paid for their work and had more freedom of movement.

Initially the altar area was decorated with frescoes of the Madonna and Child surrounded by cherubic figures with the scroll inscribed ‘Queen of Peace pray for us’. A rood screen was made with scrap metal and stained glass windows replaced the original Nissen hut glass. The end result is widely accepted as an incredible achievement. The work did not stop there though and the reuse of the interior of the nissen huts was painted with trompe l’oeil with bricks and stone architectural features.
By the end of the war the chapel was finished and when the Italian finally left the nissen huts of the camp were taken down leaving the solitary chapel on a spit of land next to Scapa flow.

Remarkably the chapel survived and in the 1960’s a project began to restore it. In 1960 Domenico Chiocchetti returned to Orkney to help with its restoration. on the 11th of April he left saying “The chapel is yours - for you to love and preserve. I take with me to Italy the remembrance of your kindness and wonderful hospitality. I thank the authorities of Kirkwall, the courteous preservation committee, and all those who directly or indirectly have collaborated for the success of this work and for having given me the joy of seeing again the little chapel of Lambholm where I, in leaving, leave a part of my heart”

The Italian Chapel is a testament not only to mans faith but is another demonstration of the incredible effort people have put into places of worship over millennia. The Italian chapel is also a great testament to the Italian people and demonstrates their creative skills and their need to make joyous places.

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