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Italian Chapel Orkney

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Italian Chapel, 2004
Italian Chapel revealing Nissen hut
Gordon McKinlay

The Italian Chapel on Lamb Holm is almost the only remaining evidence of Camp 60, one of two PoW camps (the other was Camp 34, Burray) occupied by the PoWs (mostly Italian) who worked on the construction of the Churchill Barriers. Much of the credit for this building is given to one man, artist and sculptor Domenico Chiocchetti, also responsible for the altarpiece.

The chapel is based on two Nissen huts which have been joined together in an east-west orientation, as per ecclesiastical tradition, with a bright frontispiece to the west having Doric columns supporting a pediment. A date panel surmounts the entrance, and carries the legend AD MCMXLIV (1944) with a pointed-arched bell cote above. The corrugated iron exterior is hidden behind a plasterboard interior wall, painted to represent a stone interior with a vaulted ceiling.

The building was renovated during the 1960s, and thousands of visitors now travel from throughout the world to visit the site.

Statue of St George

Statue of St George, and chapel, 2007
Statue of St George, and chapel
Colin Smith

Southwest of the chapel is a statue depicting St George slaying the dragon, mounted on a plinth. Completed by the PoWs, the statue is constructed from concrete over a barbed wire armature, and carries the following inscription on the plinth:

P di C
Italiani
li 7-8-1943

Italian chapel in Camp Atterbury PoW camp USA

Chapel being built
Chapel being built

The prison section of the camp, which has been transformed into a county park, fish and wildlife area, was used to hold enemy combatants throughout World War II. In 1943, a group Italian PoWs were given permission to build a small Roman Catholic chapel, or shrine, in a quiet corner of the camp.[1]

The PoWs were not allowed to use valuable construction material during war time, so the chapel was small, measuring about 11 ft x 16 ft and made of leftover bricks and stucco. Rumour has it that flowers and berries from nearby woods and marshes, and even blood, was to create pigments. US Army chaplain Maurice Imhoff presided over Sunday mass.

Abandoned after the war and exposed to the elements, the "Chapel in the Meadow" became derelict, but was restored in the 1990s, partly with the help of the Indiana Italian Heritage Society.

In 1999, the chapel was damaged by an arsonist claiming retaliation against the Federal government for the assault on the David Khoresh compound in Waco, Texas, but was fortunately saved by firemen. A few small murals of Jesus and the Virgin Mary, chubby-cheeked cherubs, angels, and a dove representing the Holy Spirit, survived, with the altar painted to look like marble, and the chapel walls finished in a brilliant Mediterranean blue.

Notably, he existence of the World War II PoW camps was discouraged from becoming headline news. The US Army established some 175 throughout the country, and in the 1940s, the largest number of the US Army's PoW camps, set up to hold German and Italian prisoners captured in Europe and North Africa, were located in Wisconsin and Texas.

Photographs

Chapel interior and altar, 2001
Chapel interior and altar
sylvia duckworth
Interior wall detail, 1994
Interior wall detail
Des Colhoun


References

1 Camp Atterbury Prisoner of War Camp Retrieved October 05, 2016.

External links

Related Canmore/RCAHMS and ScotlandsPlaces (SP) entries:-

 

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