So, essentially, this chapel was built for the Italian prisoners of war (POWs) while they were employed to construct the Churchill Barriers, which were meant to prevent a repeat of the German misadventure that led to the sinking of the British battleship 'HMS Royal Oak' and caused the loss of 834 lives.
When I reached the chapel, painted red and white, my first thoughts were 'what a quaint structure..." Prima facie, it is humble in its design and execution but as I stepped inside, the beautifully painted ceiling and the painstaking details in the murals left an imprint on me.
Inside, I almost forgot that the chapel was made out of corrugated metal. A serenity and calmness greeted me and the humble altar left a deep impression on me, an atheist (well, animist would be more accurate).
The devotion of the Italian POWs and adherence to their beliefs even in the middle of a long, hard-fought war, seems to have been absorbed by the metal structure of this small chapel.
The Italian Chapel sees over 100,000 visitors every year, several of them from Italy. I wonder if like me, they too feel a sense of awe at the structure built so many decades ago on a windswept island, by the side of a small lake and with a robust bunch of narcissus flowers in bloom.
The website Orkney.com says:
"....decades after the completion of the Chapel, it is one of Orkney's most loved attractions, with over 100,000 visitors every year. There is also strong friendship with the town of Moena in Italy, the home of Chiocchetti, and Orkney, and members of the family visit the islands from time to time. Chiocchetti's daughter, Letizia, is an Honorary President of the Preservation Committee. Antonella Papa, a restoration artist from Rome, who had previously done work in the Sistine Chapel, has also spent time working in the Chapel to refresh areas of Chiocchetti's painting."