Sala Italia UNAR - Unione delle Associazioni Regionali di Roma e del Lazio,
ORKNEY'S ITALIAN CHAPEL
Alessandro Carnevali (President of the Associazione Romana della Ciociaria)
Gabriella Tamburello (LiveOil, Curator)
John Muir (Orkney's Chapel Preservation Committee)
Prof. Marco Bussagli (Art Director)
Dora Tobar (Teologist)
Daniel Mcstay ( ENEA visiting Professor)
G. Fornetti (ENEA)
L. De Dominicis (ENEA)
M. Guarneri (ENEA)
Friday 29 November the conference room Italia in the building of UNAR in Rome will host the historical-photographical exhibition on the Italian Chapel in Orkney recently ranked within the sixty most significative churches of UK . Through an interactive path of historical photographs, interviews and footages the spectator will discover the beauty of the Chapel, the history of its realization and the uniqueness of magical islands like Orkney.
The exhibition will be hosted by UNAR, the Italian Association of Regions, located in the elegant area Parioli of Rome and reckoned as the cultural pole of the city.
Keynote speakers will open the exhibition with representatives from Italy and Scotland .
The exhibition is expected to have a wide press and TV coverage and to boost the tourist flow on the Orkney-Italy route.
During the Second Woorld War more than 1200 italian soldiers were captured during the North African campaign and sent to Orkney to work on the Churchill Barriers, a massive series of concrete causeways that seal the eastern approaches to Scapa Flow, a shelterd anchorage for the Britains fleet.
The camp 60 consisted at first of thirteen or more huts, but the active Italians made concrete paths and planted flowers, until the whole area was transformed. To preside over the camp‘ square‘ an artistic prisoner, Domenico Chiocchetti, made the figure of St George, built up from a framework of barbed wire covered with cement. New amenities were created: a theatre with scenery, and a recreation hut, which included in its equipment a concrete billiard table.
One thing the camp still lacked — a chapel. With the authorization of the camp's commandant,
Major (later Colonel) T. P. Buckland the prisoners started to work hardly to build a chapel on the structure of a hut. With recycled materials and armed with maestry and imagination the italians were able to create a one of a kind example of creativity, faith and brotherhood. The active participation of the Orcadian community with their human touch and sensibility was instrumental to meet the final task of the work.
The Chapel was build on the little island of Lamb Holm, on the east access to Scapa Flow and realized with simple and recycled materials. The Chapel is based on a Nissen hut and all the processing were performed with improvised tools.
The unsightly corrugated iron of the hut was hidden by plasterboard, smooth above, panelled below. The altar, altar-rail, and holy water stoop, all beautifully designed, were moulded in concrete. Behind the altar, reaching up to the sanctuary roof, and buttressed by two windows of painted glass, representing St Francis of Assisi and St Catherine of Siena, was lovingly depicted the Madonna and Child, Chiocchetti’s masterpiece, based on a holy picture he had carried with him all through the war.
At the end of the Orcadians started to work for preserving the Chapel and in 1960 thank to the help of BBC D. Chiocchetti travelled to Orkney to visit the Chapel and carrying on some restauration works. So the chapel remains, after more than sixty years, as the reminder of a faith that flourished in adversity, and as a memorial to the genius of its Italian builders. It is, in addition, the happy example of a pure inspiration that has triumphed over sectarian divisions.