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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
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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."