The Twentieth Century Society

Campaigning for outstanding buildings

Click to see full size Photo © Philip Paris
Photo © Philip Paris
Photo © Philip Paris

100 Buildings 100 Years

1944: Italian Chapel, Orkney

Status: Listed
Condition: Good condition
Type: Place of worship
Architect: Domenico Chiocchetti and Italian PoWs
Location: Lambholm, Orkney, KW17 2SF

On October  14, 1939, HMS Royal Oak was sunk  by a German submarine in Scapa Flow. 834 died. Churchill ordered the  construction of protective barriers. Italian prisoners of war, based in Camp 60,  worked constructing the Barriers. Led by Domenico Chiocchetti, and encouraged by  their padre and the British commander, the Italians improved their drab camp. They constructed an  elaborately decorated chapel, using two Nissen huts, with scrap materials.  Skilled artists, electricians and metal workers transformed the huts. Statues,  trompe l’oiel paintings, coloured glass windows and a decorated facade were  created. Work was completed by 1944.

After the War  the camp closed and the chapel declined. It was restored, by Chiocchetti and  islanders, in 1961. It was listed grade A in 1987. It’s now a popular tourist  site: testament to the prisoners’ skills and our common human need to embellish and worship.

by Aidan Turner-Bishop

Historic Scotland Listing description

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