The Italian Chapel is a highly ornate Catholic chapel on Lamb Holm. It was built during World War II by Italian prisoners of war, who were housed on the previously uninhabited island while they constructed the Churchill Barriers to the east of Scapa Flow. Only the concrete foundations of the other buildings of the prisoner-of-war camp survive. It was not completed until after the end of the war, and was restored in the 1960s and again in the 1990s. It is now a popular tourist attraction, and a category A listed building.

550 Italian prisoners of war, captured in North Africa during World War II, were brought to Orkney in 1942. They worked on the construction of the Churchill Barriers, four causeways created to block access to Scapa Flow. 200 were based at Camp 60 on Lamb Holm. In 1943, Major Thomas Pyres Buckland, Camp 60's new commandant, and Father Gioacchino Giacobazzi, the Camp's priest, agreed that a place of worship was required.

The chapel was constructed from limited materials by the prisoners. Two Nissen huts were joined end-to-end. The corrugated interior was then covered with plasterboard and the altar and altar rail were constructed from concrete left over from work on the barriers. Most of the interior decoration was done by Domenico Chiocchetti, a prisoner from Moena. He painted the sanctuary end of the chapel and fellow-prisoners decorated the entire interior. They created a facade out of concrete, concealing the shape of the hut and making the building look like a church. The light holders were made out of corned beef tins. The baptismal font was made from the inside of a car exhaust covered in a layer of concrete.

Chiocchetti remained on the island to finish the chapel, even when his fellow prisoners were released shortly before the end of the war.

In 1958, the Chapel Preservation Committee was set up by a group of Orcadians. In 1960, Chiocchetti returned to assist in the restoration. He returned again in 1964, but was too ill to travel when some of the other prisoners returned in 1992 to commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of their arrival on the island. He died in 1999. In 1996 a declaration was jointly signed by officials in Orkney and Chiocchetti's hometown of Moena, reinforcing the ties between the two places.

Today the tin tabernacle is still used as a chapel and remains a popular tourist attraction, receiving over 100,000 visitors every year. It has become one of the best-known and moving symbols of reconciliation in the British Isles.

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Orkney, United Kingdom
See all sites in Orkney

Details

Founded: 1943
Category: Religious sites in United Kingdom

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4.5/5 (based on Google user reviews)

User Reviews

KAR WING (15 months ago)
A must visit place in Orkney! Very nice wall painting ! Friendly staffs . Dont forget stop for a glass of Orkney Gin along the way to the chapel , U won't miss it just on your left hand side before the Italian Chapel
Simon Tizzard (2 years ago)
A very beautiful place, what is so interesting is that the Italian war prisoners made every thing literally from scratch the craftsmen ship is amazing, there family's should be very proud ,and Christine the guide was very pleasant and knowledgeable many thanks.⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
Peter Shaw (2 years ago)
Very worth the visit, was a real eye opener, the detail and workmanship inside was a great surprise. I am so glad to have visited this site not only for its beutiful interior but also learning about it's history.
Jackie Wilkinson (2 years ago)
Absolutely gorgeous, how on earth did they make this? Well preserved. Good information and gift centre. Not far to walk from main road, travelling with X1 bus to St Margaret's Hope from Kirkwall, just over first Churchill Barrier.
Lindsey Wright (2 years ago)
Amazing place to see and read about. The details within can only be experienced by visiting and seeing for yourself. Pictures do not do this place justice. What an amazing building and history. Long may it be cared for
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