Sunday, June 27, 2010

The Italian chapel

Full of the weird and wonderful, we visited the Italian Chapel built by Italian prisoners of war during WWII using bits and pieces. An act of faithful devotion that has created a lovely hopeful space.


cc said...

Wow! That looks amazing- and appearing out of that vast green expanse. Very aerodynamic! What was the moment like where the facade met the half cylinder? Was there a vestibule inbetween?

byron smith said...

The half cylinder is composed of two typical POW internment sheds placed end to end. When originally constructed, this chapel would have been on one edge of a much larger camp with with similar sheds. The rest of them were all dismantled after the war, but they left the chapel for obvious reasons, and also a statue that one of the Italians had made outside the chapel (not in the picture). The facade of the chapel just runs directly onto the end of the half-cylinder, so from the back it looks even more odd than from the front. Jess should have also included the shot looking at the chapel square on because you can't see at first what is behind it but when you take a few steps to the side, the barrel shape appears.

One of the prisoners who had been primarily responsible for much of the artwork inside the chapel actually elected to stay in the camp after the end of the war to complete his work (or maybe he went home and came back after a few months, I can't remember). The chapel was such a symbol of hope to the prisoners and helped to lead to good relations with the local Orcadians, who now look after the chapel on behalf of an Italian trust originally set up the prisoners when they got home.

Fascinating stuff.

And the POWs were there in order to build huge sea barriers that still exist and which were very important in the war effort, so all together it is a very interesting story