The story of the Italian Chapel is as famous as the building itself. Built by Italian prisoners of war, the chapel is testimony to their resolve, skills and imagination, and is held in great affection by Orcadians and visitors from around the world.
La Bella Cappella Italiana is one of Orkney's most visited attractions and the source of arguably the most poignant story from Scotland's involvement in World War Two.
It all began when a German U-boat slipped undetected into Scapa Flow in 1939 and launched a torpedo attack on HMS Royal Oak with the loss of 833 crew. This tragedy prompted plans to build giant causeways to seal off approaches to Scapa Flow and Italian prisoners of war, captured during the North African campaign, were shipped in to Orkney in 1942 to build what is known today as the Churchill Barriers.
During their stay, the prisoners of Camp 60 on Lamb Holm were given permission to build a place of worship. The transformation of two old Nissen huts into a beautiful chapel was masterminded by Domenico Chiocchetti and is nothing short of remarkable given the limited materials at their disposal. Chiocchetti returned to Orkney in 1960 to assist with restoration work and when he died in 1999 his wife and daughter attended a memorial requiem mass at the Chapel in his honour.
2015 marks the 70th anniversary of the chapel's completion and at a commemorative mass the Apostolic Nuncio, His Excellency Archbishop Antonio Mennini read a message from His Holiness Pope Francis in which His Holiness 'prays that the Chapel, built in times of war, may continue to be a sign of peace and reconciliation'.
The Chapel's reputation is such that it is now the inspiration for filmmakers, captivated by the tale of two secret lovers - a prisoner and a local woman - who met on Orkney in 1943.