Orkney’s Italian Chapel: The True Story of an Icon – Non Fiction

This six-minute film about the Italian chapel, produced by award winning amateur filmmaker Pauline M Johnson from Edinburgh, won the 2012 ‘Choice of Clubs’ competition, which is open to all Scottish (and Carlisle) video clubs.  The film about the chapel was chosen to represent the Edinburgh Cine and Video Society.

Listen To Philip Paris Interviewed on the BBC Listen to Philip on BBC Scotland (mp3)
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Audio reproduced by kind permission of BBC Scotland


Orkney's Italian chapel was built by Italian POWs held on the island during the Second World War. Since it was built the chapel has become an enduring symbol of peace and hope around the world. The story of who built the chapel and how it came into existence and survived against all the odds is both fascinating and inspiring. Extensive research over four years has uncovered many new facts, and this comprehensive book is the definitive account of the chapel and those who built it. It is a book that has waited to be written for more than sixty-five years.

The Rood Screen


‘Although several documentaries have been made about the chapel, it has taken seven decades for the survivors’ testimony, the reminisces of their families and historical documents to be pieced together by writer Philip Paris.’  The Scotsman, February 2012.

‘The passion, tears and despair penetrate each page, but above all, hope through adversity shines..... This is an extremely precious and important work that will undoubtedly become a "must buy" classic for Orcadians and visitors alike.’
Living Orkney, July 2010

‘For anybody interested in this wonderful Italian chapel or indeed the lives of those during the Second World War, this book is an absolute must read.’
Spirit of Orkney, June 2010

‘I thought the book was an excellent piece of research which shed new light on one of Orkney's great treasures.’
Magnus Linklater, The Times


‘I was fascinated by this book and strongly recommend it. I was not aware that there are these chapels that were built by prisoners of war (presumably not only from Italians), and from the Italian chapel in Orkney I knew before the purchase of the book that it is pretty and existent. Now I have almost booked my flight to there.’
Little Specter

‘The book provides a very precise history of events from the initial build and gives an insight to the conditions endured by the POWs in Orkney during those bleak war years. It is obvious that the author was very thorough in researching information required for the writing of this book and for that he is to be highly commended.’

‘I thoroughly enjoyed the story, and became involved with the characters. I recommend these books which cast a different light on WW2.’
Kilo Watts 'Dietrich' 


Orkney’s Italian Chapel: The True Story of an Icon is a book that has waited to be written for more than sixty-five years and provides a comprehensive guide to the chapel’s history, its mysteries and its myths.

For the first time we understand why the building was saved after the war, only to be left to fall almost into ruin before being rescued.  We find out the fate of the list of names buried under the statue of St George slaying the Dragon.  We learn about the Italian priest who was the catalyst for the chapel’s creation and the priests who followed and helped to preserve it.

Previously unpublished photographs, letters and memoirs provide a unique insight into life in the POW camps, what it was like to work on the famous Churchill Barriers and the friendships formed between the Italians and local families.

Many chapels were built by Italian POWs and although most were later lost there are several that are still in use.  Orkney’s Italian Chapel, published by Black & White Publishing in May 2010, gives a vivid and moving account of how men overcame huge obstacles to create these places of worship.

Padre Giacomo
Padre Giacomo Giacobazzi during the Italian-Ethiopian War of 1935-36. 
Source Padre Giacomo Giacobazzi Biography.
The priest arrived in Orkney in September 1943 and was the catalyst for the creation of the chapel.

Guido DeBonis
Guido DeBonis discovered only in 2004, at the age of eighty-five, that the chapel in Orkney still existed.  He had been in Camp 60 and remained in Britain after the war.
In 2008 he travelled from his home in Gloucestershire for an emotional return trip to the islands, sixty-four years after he had left.

Italian POWs praying in the Italian Chapel Orkney
Italians praying inside the chapel during the summer of 1944.

Father Roland Walls
Father Ronald Walls, October 2009, at the age of eighty-nine.
He was the Catholic priest in Orkney from 2006 – 2010.




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