A little bit of Italy in the Northern Isles

The Italian Chapel is located on Lamb Holm which is one of the Orkney Islands to the north of mainland Scotland. Lamb Holm is now part of mainland Orkney as it has been integrated into the island by the construction of the Churchill Barriers.

The Italian Chapel on Orkney
One of the Churchill Barriers

The Churchill Barriers were constructed after the sinking of HMS Royal Oak by a German U-boat in 1939. The barriers were intended to close access to Scapa flow. Due to a limited local labour supply it was decided to use prisoners of war to build the barriers which are constructed of large concrete blocks. A large number of Italian prisoners of war, captured in North Africa, were brought to Orkney to help construct the barriers. They were housed in Camp 60 on Lamb Holm. As the Italian contingent were Roman Catholics it was decided that it would be appropriate to build a place of worship for the PoWs. Two Nissan huts were joined together to form a church.

The interior of the chapel

One of the Italian PoWs, Domenico Chiocchetti, was a talented artist and he set to work decorating the chapel.  Chiocchetti was assisted by a number of other tradesmen from amongst the Italian contingent including a blacksmith Guiseppe Palumbi and a cement worker, Domenico Buttapasta who used the available limited resources to spectacular effect. This included covering the exhaust system of a car to create a baptismal font!

Madonna and child painted by Domenico Chiocchetti

One of the principal images painted by Chiocchetti was the main painting behind the altar which featured the Madonna and Child. When Chiocchetti went off to war his mother gave him a small prayer card with this image on it which he managed to hold onto throughout his time in North Africa and Scotland.

The result of the work of this group of Italians is breathtaking!


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