Henllan Chapel

This Italian Chapel was built in 1942 in a prisoner of war camp near Newcastle Emlyn, in Mid Wales. The camp held 1,000 prisoners of war from the war in Northern Africa. As on the camp there was no place for religious cult, when the prisoners requested one, they had to sacrifice one of the dormitories to built a chapel. As skillful as ever, the Italians built it using means of fortune and improvising. They created a little masterpiece, and devoted it to The Sacred Heart. Mario Ferlito, was the artist who decorated the beautiful frescos in the chapel. Sadly, the Italian Chapel, which echoes in a minor scale, the more famous one in Orkney, Scotland, is in urgent need of restauration and preservation. It is one of the 3 remaining chapels built by Italians, the third one believed to be in northern Africa.
review by Bruna

The designer and painter of the church Mario Ferlito made a return journey to the church in 1977, at the bequest of local school children, to see how his work had survived, he has however, since died in Italy. The Prisoner of War camp and the Church of the Sacred Heart has become a place of pilgrimage for many who were held as Prisoners of War, their families and of course for scores of tourists.

The camp has been the subject of many TV programmes and has been mentioned in countless others, such as the BBC’s "Hidden Wales". It is also the subject of a book "Y Llinyn Arian" by Jon Meirion Jones, published in 2007.

The camp is important as it is the only surviving example of a POW decorated church on the British mainland, although another Italian POW Church called the "The Church of the Barriers" may be found on the Orkney Isles in Scotland.

For further details including photos and prisoners memories please see:bbc.co.uk

Article written by Carmarthenshire Tourism Officer Rhys D. Anthony.

Hello Bruna,
Just heard your wonderful story on the Roy Noble Show and I was particularly interested when you
referred to the Camp at Henllan and the Chapel built by the Italians as you stated out of simple and
limited items available to them within the camp. I have visited the Church on several occasions and
I was particularly impressed by the candlesticks made out of Bully Beef tins. It is indeed a beautiful
place and a tragedy that it is being neglected and I strongly believe that it should be taken and preserved
in St. Fagans alongside other precious buildings.

As you mention in your website - it is unique being only one of 3 in the world built by the Italian POW's
and as the only unique example having been built in Wales and having survived for 70 years I see no
arguement against it being included in the Historic Buildings at St.Fagans.

I was brought up in the nearby village of Penrhiwllan and my family are still living there - and I recall
stories being told about the Italians during the War when they were allowed to come out from the
camp and be asked to work in nearby farms - and they were liked so much that some were even
allowed to stay overnight. At the end of the War, some of them remained in the area and brought
up their own families.

I know that a book was made about the camp and the boys that were there and I do recall them
coming back to Henllan a many years ago for a reunion. A CD has also been made of the camp
perhaps you already know this - forgive me if you do.

Is it your intention to undertake some campaign to ensure the future of the little Chapel at Henllan?
If so, then I would be more than happy to be involved.

Italy is my favourite holiday destination and as you said this morning - the Welsh language which I
am proud to say is my first language and yes - it is musical as I believe is Italian and that is why
I love the Italian language so much - I would love to learn it. I also am a passionate cook and
my itialian dishes are well received in this house - but it is also their way of life and the importance of
family and community that I appreciate so much and feel that many Welsh communities have
suffered a great loss of this spirit in modern times.

Thank you again for your contribution to the programme - it was most interesting and fascinating
Diolch/Chiao/Thank you
Delyth Lewis Rawlings, Camarthern, 15 April 2013
Bruna Chezzi,
6 Jul 2012, 14:14
Bruna Chezzi,
6 Jul 2012, 14:15