For our latest Curiosity of the Week we are heading over to Orkney to discover a rather unusual piece of history…an Italian Chapel made from Nissen huts and a shipwreck.
Yes, The Italian Chapel at Lamb Holm is a pretty, unique building with an interesting story behind it. The chapel was built during WWII by Italian POWs, who were brought to the local area to work on sea defences. The prisoners were given two Nissen huts, joined together, to use as a place of worship. The prisoners were allowed to convert the huts into a chapel in their spare time.
The chapel and its ornate decoration is a remarkable achievement by the labourers, given the lack of time and available materials. The interior is fully decorated to imitate a more ornate structure with bricks, stone, and a vaulted ceiling painted on. There are frescoes, stained glass windows and an altar, as well as a little bell tower and stone pillars at the entrance.
The chapel’s decoration was made with cement, scrap metal and materials repurposed from a shipwreck. The prisoners left before they really got to use the finished chapel, but the building was left for the inhabitants of Orkney to use and look after. Today it is one of Orkney’s most visited attractions, alongside historic sites such as Skara Brae and Maeshowe.
If you would like to visit the chapel, it is open daily and there is just a small admission charge of £3 (free for those under 12 years).
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We are always on the lookout for interesting customs, hidden places, and unique buildings and landmarks, to share with our readers.