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The Italian Cultural Institute, founded in 1979, is an office of the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs - Department for Cultural Promotion and Cooperation.

The Institute promotes Italian language and culture in Scotland and Northern Ireland and cooperates with local Institutions and Universities and serves as well as a gathering point for the Italian community.

The Institute promotes academic exchanges, organises arts exhibitions, sponsors the translation of Italian books, supports various events on literature, music, sciences, dance, film, design, fashion, theatre, cuisine, architecture, photography, etc



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I imagine the last place that the Italian soldiers fighting Mussolini's North African campaign believed they would end up would be the Orkney Islands (though the mysterious arrival of the Zeno brothers to the islands beat them by some 600 years.)

Many of the prisoners of Camp 60 were employed on the island to build the Churchill Barriers used to halt German U-Boats from entering the harbours of Scapa Flow. This was decreed by Winston Churchill following the tragic sinking of the Royal Oak in 1939 with an estimated  loss of life of 800.

Making the most of their surroundings, the Italians constructed concrete pathways and were given Two 'Nissen' huts ( identified by their round basic shape and corrugated iron roofs), one to be used as a school, the other as the chapel. 

The Chapel at Lambholm (pictured above) was constructed from scrap metal and junk and today is considered a poignant symbol of peace and goodwill.

The chapel is testament to the vision of Domenico Chiocchetti, who using his artistic background, rallied his fellow inmates and built what is today one of Orkney's most visited and loved tourist attractions.

The painting “Madonna of the Olives” by Nicolo Barabina (1832-1891) is reflected by Chiocchetti's reproduction. This picture was one that he always carried in his wallet - it was on the cover of a Christmas card that Chiocchetti was sent from his mother.

Chiocchetti was also responsible for the statue of St. George which stands proudly on the hill overlooking Lambholm. Constructed entirely of barbed wire and cement the base of the statue contains a scroll of  the names of the Italian prisoners.

Chioccetti stayed on to complete the chapel even after the prisoners were released as the War was nearing its end.

In 1958 a small group of Orcadians set up the Chapel Preservation Committee and if it wasn't for them we may not have had this national treasure today.

Chiocchetti died in Moena in the Dolomites in 1999. A memorial service was conducted at the chapel by the then Bishop Mario Conti and was attended by Domenico's daughter Letizia.

Read the Orcadian article, Sixty years on - a symbol of peace stands the test of time, March 14th 2002.

You might be interested in Philip Paris's forthcoming book Orkney's Italian Chapel: The True Story of an Icon. This is a non fiction book about the chapel on Orkney and is the result of four years of research into the building's history.  The book will be published in May 2010 by Edinburgh publisher Black & White. 

Philip Paris has also written a work of fiction entitled The Italian Chapel and is available to buy direct from the publisher or on Amazon. There is also another story The chapel at the end of the world, which features the chapel at Lambholm written by Kirsten McKenzie.

 Related Links

BBC Heritage Article

Italian Chapel, BBC h2g2

Undiscovered Scotland Article

Prisoner of War who left a legacy, ItalCult

The Scots College in Rome celebrates 400 years !!

Scots College - View from the TerrazzaFounded by Pope Clement VIII in 1600, the college is the spiritual home to over half a million Catholics living in Scotland. The first students attended two years later and today still trains and prepares students for the priesthood. Adjoining the college is the chapel of St. Andrew the patron saint of Scotland. The 400th anniversary celebrations of the college was attended by Scotland's leading politicians as well as the Pontiff himself.

The late Cardinal Winning said of the event:

"I consider the Scots College in Rome to be the most important institution in the Scottish Catholic Church. Because when the Church was outlawed, Pope Clement VIII threw a lifeline to our beleaguered people by setting up a very humble centre in Rome to train priests for the home mission. Over the years the ministry of those priests has helped keep the faith alive in Scotland."

Proportionately the Scots College is the best attended of those in Rome.


Italian Chapel - (click to enlarge)

Orkney Chapel



Letter by Chiocchetti to Orcadians on a visit in 1960 (to renovate the chapel)

"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 shall remember you always, and my children shall learn from me to love you.  I thank (you)....for having given me the joy of seeing again little chapel of Lambholm where I, in leaving, leave a part of my heart."


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