Worldwide response to Orkney Italian Chapel thefts
Members of the public have now helped reduce the timeline of when the thieves struck and stole three hand-carved plaques depicting the story of Christ’s journey to the cross.
The theft from the iconic building, which was built by Italian prisoners of war during the Second World War, sparked outrage.
Initially, the chapel custodians were only able to say the artefacts vanished some time between 29 July and Tuesday this week.
However, a police appeal for members of the public to send photos from visits to the chapel has helped detectives to reduce the timeline to some time within a period of three days last week.
Inspector Derek Robb said: “Police in Orkney would like to thank everyone who has come forward with information and photographs surrounding the theft from the Italian Chapel.
“The huge level of response from all over the world shows the respect and affection held for this historic place of worship and the level of outrage that someone has chosen to steal from within its’ walls.
“From the information provided it would appear that the theft has occurred between 9am on Wednesday, 6 August, and 5.40pm on Friday, 8 August.
“This is a significantly reduced timeline and Police Scotland would still like to hear from people who visited during this particular period.”
He also appealed directly to the person responsible to think again about their actions and to take every step to ensure the plaques are found and returned to their rightful place within the chapel.
The three plaques were part of a set of 14, known as Stations of the Cross, gifted by the chapel’s creator Domenico Chiocchetti and his wife in 1964.
The chapel’s preservation committee secretary John Muir was left stunned by the theft.
“We have been celebrating the 70th anniversary and it is very disappointing that this is the second event of this sort to happen, following a break-in in May.”
The chapel, which is unlocked during the day, is the biggest tourist attraction in Orkney, getting over 100,000 visitors a year.
This year marks the milestone 70th anniversary of the departure of the Italian prisoners from Orkney.Some 1200 prisoners were sent to the windswept and wild island as an enemy.
Most of the Italians who worked on the chapel left on September 9, 1944, to go to a camp in England - just weeks after the iconic building had been completed.
The Italian soldiers were brought to the islands to provide the labour to principally build the Churchill Barriers. The men were divided into two camps.
But out of their enforced stay north emerged one of the most poignant stories to come out of Scotland’s involvement in the war, the chapel - known as the ‘Miracle of Camp 60’ - was built out of two Nissen huts on the island of Lamb Holm.