When 550 Italian soldiers were captured in the scorching North African desert back in 1942, it must have caused them quite a shock to be sent in winter to the Scottish isle of Orkne. The POWs were sent here in order to build the “Churchill Barriers,” a series of causeways that would protect the British Grand Fleet in the Scapa Flow harbor. By 1943, the homesick workers requested a chapel where they could worship. What did they get? Two Nissen huts, which they were told to join end-to-end and labor over outside work hours. 
What happened next is a beautiful symbol of peace, faith and the power of human ingenuity even in wartime. Local Orkney artists provided brushes and poster paints to decorate the huts; bully beef tins were converted into makeshift candle holders; wood scavenged from shipwrecks was used to create furniture; a car exhaust was covered in concrete to create a Baptismal font. Slowly but surely, those two steel sheds became the Roman Catholic chapel of the Italians’ dreams. 
The main man behind the chapel’s decoration was POW Domenico Chiocchetti, who painted a false frontage so that it really looked like the Roman Catholic churches of home. He was so dedicated to the project that when everyone was sent home in 1944, he stayed on to finish the project.

In 1960, Chiocchetti returned to Orkney from his home in Moena, Italy, to assist with a restoration projection of the chapel. When he left three weeks later, he wrote a letter to the people of Orkney: "The chapel is yours, for you to love and preserve. I take with me to Italy the remembrance of your kindness and wonderful hospitality.” 

Practical Info

Cared for by local volunteers, entry to the Italian Chapel is free. From Orkney’s main town of Kirkwall, the church is an eight-mile drive south. 

Tours & Tickets

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5-Day Orkney Islands Tour from Edinburgh Including the Scottish Highlands

5 star rating: Highly Recommended 10 Reviews

Venture to the far-flung Orkney Islands on a 5-day tour from Edinburgh with 3-star accommodation included, and visit top Highland towns and attractions, too! ...  Read more

Location: Edinburgh, United Kingdom
Duration: 5 days (approx.)

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This day trip from Inverness visits some of the main attractions of the Orkney Islands including Skara Brae, The Churchill Barriers, Scapa Flow, The Ring of ...  Read more

Location: Inverness, United Kingdom
Duration: 14 hours (approx.)

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Orkney Islands Day Trip from John O'Groats

5 star rating: Highly Recommended 91 Reviews

Explore the Orkney Islands on this day trip from John O'Groats. Take the ferry and island hop across the Churchill Barriers to visit Kirkwall, home to the ...  Read more

Location: John O'Groats, United Kingdom
Duration: 11 hours (approx.)

From USD $84.40

3-Day Orkney Islands Tour from Inverness

4.5 star rating: Recommended 5 Reviews

Leave mainland Scotland behind and travel across the North Sea to reach the Orkney Islands on this incredible 3-day trip from Inverness. Remote yet enticing, ...  Read more

Location: Inverness, United Kingdom
Duration: 3 days (approx.)

From USD $525.67

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