The Italian Chapel on Orkney

I have been away travelling and sadly haven’t touched any painting or drawing. I would like to mention this wonderful place we visited on our trip round the Northern Isles, which is very much connected to real art.

Interior of Italian Chapel

I had to use a postcard for this shot, as when we were there the building was crowded, so a clear shot of the altar was impossible

The chapel was created by Italian POWS in 1943, who were employed building concrete causeways between the islands, which also acted as sea defences against U-boat infiltration. The Royal navy had already lost HMS Royal Oak with 800 lives to an enemy torpedo whilst apparently safe in Scapa Flow, so this work was of great importance.

The Italians requested a chapel, and two Nissen huts were made available, fixed end to end. A man called Domenico Chiocchetti had already been recognised as an artist, and he led the team of interior decorators. He was assisted by Giuseppi Palumbi , a blacksmith and Domenico Buttapasta, a worker in cement

With no materials other than what they could find, they transformed the interior into this beautiful work of art. They were given access to the wrecks in Scapa Flow, some of which were exposed at low tide, and from these anything useful like brass or other exotic materials were obtained.

In 1944, their work done, the POWS were moved south, not before receoiving an assurance from the authorities in Orkney, that the chapel would be preserved. Domenico Chiocchetti’s home town was Moena, and there are strong links between Orkney and Moena. with visits both ways. In 2014, three stations of the cross were stolen and three replacements were carved in Moena and brought over.

Domenico Chiocchetti came back in 1994, and was involved in some restoration work himself

The chapel is one of Orkney’s most important tourist spots and welcomes 100,000 visitors each year

This is my photograph on a very grey day
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