A "lost chapel" honoring those who died in southern Italy during the Second World War has been rediscovered in an Italian building’s storeroom. It had been dedicated as "a perpetual monument to the ideals of chivalry and the brotherhood" which inspired the soldiers.
Former British soldiers who took part in the landings at Salerno in September 1943 had told Harry Shindler, a spokesman in Italy for the veterans’ group "Star Association," that they had built the chapel to honor those who died in the landings, the Times Online reports.
The soldiers said they named the chapel for St. Martin and St. George and painted frescoes in it.
Schindler told the Times the soldiers remembered that the chapel had been carved out of a former wine cellar but the landscape had changed so much they could not recall its exact location.
An appeal to residents of Salerno was published in La Repubblica, resulting in the discovery that the chapel was now being used as a storeroom in Pontecagnano, a town located on the sea south of Salerno.
According to the Times, the chapel retains its vaulted walls but the frescoes have been painted over.
A 1944 report said that the chapel was built on the initiative of army chaplain Father H.P. Hansen and blessed by the Anglican Bishop of Lichfield.
In the chapel, 15 "truly outstanding paintings" reportedly were painted by Corporal Harold Addenbrooke from Sheffield, who had been a commercial artist in peacetime.
The chapel was built by soldiers who had been bricklayers before the war, while individual soldiers provided chairs with their names and their own places of worship carved on them.
The chapel could hold 300 worshipers and had a brick floor and an altar made of stone, marble, and quartz.
Its entrance was marked by an oil painting of Jesus painted by a local Italian. The painting’s canvas bore bullet holes from the fighting, the Times Online reports.
A marble plaque for the chapel, inscribed in English and in Latin, read "This chapel of St Martin and St George has been raised to the glory of God in remembrance of those who fell in the landing on the beaches in this area in 1943, and as a perpetual monument to the ideals of chivalry and the brotherhood which inspired them."
Domenico Maisto, a local resident who had been five at the time of the landings at Salerno, remembered a wedding had been performed at the chapel between a British soldier and an Italian woman from Capri.
Maisto recalled that Biblical scenes were painted on the walls and suggested they were still present under the whitewash.
According to the Times, Schindler is trying to locate the chapel’s marble plaque, which could have been removed to a local church when the chapel was converted into a storeroom.