Find Scotland Tours that feature the Italian Chapel.
|Address:||Lambhom Island, Orkney|
|Operated by:||A Preservation Trust|
|Opening Hours:||April and October - Daily 10am to 4pm |
June, July, August - Daily 9 am to 6.30pm / May and September - Daily 9am - 5pm / November to March - Daily 10am - 1pm
|Admission:||Adults £3, Under 12 yrs Free|
|Parking:||Yes, ample car parking|
|Languages:||Information boards with several languages|
|Accessibility:||Good accessibility: there is a hard path from the car park to the chapel and a ramp that leads up to the chapel's door|
The Italian Chapel is one of Orkney's more unusual attractions, but is certainly one of its most visited. It is easy to find as it is visible from the A961 as you head south along the "Churchill Barrier" which connects the Orkney mainland to the little island of Lambholm.
During World War 2, Lambholm was the site of Prisoner Camp 60 which housed about 500 Italian soldiers captured during the North African campaign. The prisoners were based on Orkney to work on the construction of the "Churchill Barriers" which are substantial causeways built to block the eastern approaches to Scapa Flow. The necessity for these barriers was highlighted in October 1939 when a talented German U-boat captain managed to enter Scapa Flow by navigating past sunken ships and naval defences. The U-Boat then sank the battleship Royal Oak which was moored about a half mile from the shore of Scapa Bay. The Royal Oak sank very quickly with a loss of 833 men from its total crew of 1,234. The U boat actually entered and exited through the channel that is overlooked by the chapel.
It is the history and symbolism of the Italian Chapel that makes it a place of interest. We really recommend that you buy the 20 page guidebook that is for sale as it gives you a much fuller appreciation of just how much effort and ingenuity was involved in converting 2 stark Nissen huts into the ornate and beautifully detailed chapel that you see today. The construction materials available to the prisoners were not much more than concrete, scrap metal, paints and whatever other items they could scrounge together. Fortunately, they had a very sympathetic Camp Commandant (Major Buckland) who encouraged their activities and even helped with the purchasing of items to make the chapel complete.
The Italian Chapel is a touching testament to the better side of the human character and it has forged a lasting friendship between the Orcadians and the Italians who were interned on the islands. The artist responsible for most of the chapel's fine decor, Domenico Chiocechetti, is now dead, but he returned to Orkney in 1960 to spend 3 weeks working on the restoration of his paintings and the fabric of the building. Since then, the upkeep of the building has been made possible by local volunteers and the donations of visitors.
A symbol of goodwill and kindness from a time of war.
Read our Travel Blog for more information on the best things to do in Orkney.