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Italian Chapel, Lamb Holm

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Comments (12)

Neil Gregory, RCAHMS staff

The Italian Chapel on the island of Lamb Holm is perhaps the most inspirational place of worship that I have visited in Scotland. The story of how it came into being shows the resourcefulness, creativity and ingenuity of man when placed in the most difficult and dire of situations. In 1942 some 550 Italian prisoners of war were captured in North Africa and taken to Camp 60, Orkney, where they remained until early 1945. They were put to work building the Churchill Barriers, four causeways created to block access to Scapa Flow that are still used today to connect islands together. In 1943, Major T P Buckland, the Camp's new commandant, and Father Giacombazzi, the Camp's priest agreed that a place of worship was required. Two Nissen huts were joined together to form a makeshift chapel. The prisoners, under the leadership of prisoner Domenico Chiocchetti, did all of the work to transform a simple corrugated iron structure into a work of beauty. The chapel was lined with plasterwork and an altar was made out of concrete. Chiocchetti painted the sanctuary end of the chapel. The beauty that he created led to the prisoners decorating the entire interior and creating a front facade out of concrete that concealed the shape of the hut and made the building actually look like a church. Since the prisoners' departure several residents of Camp 60, including Chiocchetti, made return visits to the chapel that they had created. In 1996 a declaration was jointly signed by officials in Orkney and Chiocchetti's hometown of Moena reinforcing the ties between the two places. The building has been lovingly preserved. It is still used as a chapel and like many tourists I felt humbled when I visited it on a bleak late December day in 1998.

2nd February, 11:13 am

Gillian, Kirkwall

i some times drive past it in the car and i always look at it. it is so lovely!

1st February, 1:36 pm

PETER, Scotland

on route to the ferry crossing my bus stopped here briefly,, i just entered and wow, the spirit i felt ,, i will never forget it, i was later told it was built as a symbol of love by italian pows, and that was the day of the morning i was born again, so please give yourself to jesus, as he gave himself to us, thankyou

26th January, 11:31 am

Ellie, Cuper, Scotland

my sister lives in orkney so when i am in orkney i always go and see it. i love it every time!

26th January, 11:27 am

Fraser, 10, Burray

i live about 5 mins away from the italian chapel so im very very lucky.

26th January, 11:22 am

Julia, london

it was so lovely i actually cried. my son kept laughing at me! fantastic place!

26th January, 11:16 am

Jill, Idaho, USA

what an amazing little chapel! it is so well down inside and outside. what gifted prisoners.

27th October, 11:41 am

Ron, Scotland

I do not understand why the Italian Chapel was not short-listed. I've been there many times and every time the emotions get going; beautiful and peaceful - and I'm not religious! Its story is wonderful and the dedication of the late Domenico Chiocchetti, the artist/designer ... I always tell tourists that it is a must.

9th October, 12:50 pm

Muriel Palmer, Newton Stewart

My son and I visited the Chapel in 1993 and I will never forget the beauty of the Chapel and my amazement and wonder that the prisoners-of-war had created something so beautiful from very basic materials. It is a wonderful example of what can be achieved by hope over adversity; and should be treasured for ever.

28th September, 5:28 pm

Nancy Greenway, Scarborough

My late husband and I visited Orkney briefly on a very grim wet Autumn Day. We know nothing about the Chapel and were amazed and inspired by the beauty created from such ordinary materials. Truly a monument to man's ability to triumph over adversity.

20th September, 12:33 pm


Evokes a sense of spirituality and faith missing in the great cathedrals of Europe.



Region: Orkney

This photograph was taken by RCAHMS in 1996

Votes: 125


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