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Thursday, October 02, 2008

Tour Scotland Italian Chapel

Tour Scotland Italian Chapel. In January 1942 twelve thousand prisoners of war who had been captured in North Africa arrived on Orkney. Shortly after their arrival five hundred prisoners were taken to a camp on the tiny island of Lamb Holm, thirteen shabby huts in a windswept location. Their work was to assist in building the Churchill barriers to stop the entry of German submarines into the strategic harbour of Scapa Flow. The prisoners used their free time to improve their surroundings. An Italian priest Fr. Giachino Giacobazzi arrived in 1943 and lifted their spirits by celebrating Mass on a table in the mess hall. He then asked for permission of the Camp Commandant Major Buckland to build a chapel for these men starved of their Catholic life. The Major gave his wholehearted support to the project.

Two nissen huts were placed end to end and a team of workers, led by the artist Chiochetti, built the chapel. The whole of the inside was fashioned with whatever the workers had to hand: metal from flattened tin cans, an altar moulded in concrete, an elegant rood screen fashioned from scrap metal. The chapel was lined with plasterboard and smoothed out. On this surface Chiochetti painted elaborate frescos of the four evangelists and a stunning mural depicting the Madonna and Child, based on a picture he carried with him all during the war. Two windows were painted in stained glass fashion, St Francis of Assisi and St Catherine of Siena. The body of the chapel was painted to resemble brickwork and carved stone, with the help of another prisoner who was also an artist.

The Italian Chapel is a place of peace and reconciliation now, where visitors can rest a while, and say a prayer. Mass is said here during the summer months on the first Sunday of the month traditionally at three in the afternoon, an unforgettable experience. It remains to this day a marvel of faith and devotion to God, to Our Lady and the Saints.

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