Iceland Cruise March 2018 – On my ‘want to do list ‘ was a visit to the Italian Chapel on Orkney, and guess what I got to see it, one of the coach trips included a tour…..so that was the one we went on, well husband got the whisky trip and I got the church. I had always wanted to visit Orkney, as my great-grandfather was stationed there during WW1, teaching the Scottish ladies on how to make submarine nets. He actually went to the Dardanelles and fitted them in place, but thats another story, maybe one day. Well back to our visit, we travelled over a causeway to the small island of Lamb Holm and there, the only building left, is the beautiful Roman Catholic chapel which was constructed by Italian POWs during the Second World War.
In October 1939 a German submarine under the command of Gunther Prien entered Scapa Flow and sank the British battleship ‘Royal Oak’ with the loss of 834 lives. Winston Churchill, at that time First Sea Lord, visited Orkney and the decision was taken to construct barriers to close off four of the entrances to Scapa Flow to make the base for the home fleet more secure. There was a shortage of manpower to build the barriers, so 550 Italian prisoners of war captured in North Africa, were transported to the Island of Lamb Holm to construction the barriers.
Following a request from the camp priest, Fr Giacobazzi, it was agreed that two Nissen huts would be joined together to provide a chapel. Among the Italians in Camp 60 was an artist, Domenico Chiocchetti, and he was given the task of transforming the two Nissen huts into a chapel. He was assisted by other tradesmen – in particular Giuseppe Palumbi a blacksmith, and Domenico Buttapasta a cement worker. The chapel is the only building left of Camp 60. I have added information boards at the bottom of the post.
For taking my photos of this beautiful chapel, I had to rush in before our coach party descended on the chapel, as it would then be impossible to take any people free photos. My practice of taking photos in a very short time, came into full use and I got most of them, then just aimed for the ceiling. For those few moments of just me, the chapel felt so serene.
Chioccetti set to work on the painting of the interior of the sanctuary. The end result is a work of art that is magnificent, and must have been utterly stunning to those imprisoned here. Another prisoner, Giuseppe Palumbi, who had been a blacksmith in Italy before the war, spent four months constructing the wrought iron rood screen, which still complements the rest of the interior today.