Page last updated at 10:40 GMT, Friday, 1 May 2009 11:40 UK

Italian PoW chapel founder dies

Former PoW Mario Ferlito with the mural of Christ's Last Supper in the background
Former PoW Mario Ferlito came up with the idea for the church

An Italian prisoner of war (PoW) who used fruit and clothing dye as paint to transform a WWII prison hut into a chapel has died, aged 86.

Mario Ferlito painted murals and made ornaments from corn beef tins for the Church of the Sacred Heart in Henllan, near Llandysul, Ceredigion.

Close friend Jon Meirion Jones said Mr Ferlito died at home in Ornavasso, near Turin, northern Italy.

Mr Jones, a retired head teacher, wrote a book about Mr Ferlito and the chapel.

He said the Italian senior citizen died in the early hours of Friday.

The former PoW served in the Italian infantry in North Africa during World War II, but was captured by the British in Libya in 1943.

Mario was a kind, warm and cultured man - he will be sadly missed
John Meirion Jones

He was sent to the UK and was one of 1,000 prisoners held in Henllan.

The chapel was built after prisoners asked the camp commandant if they could have a place to worship.

"A lot of prisoners went out to work each day and Mario asked them to return with fruit such as strawberries and elderberries so he could turn them into paint. He also used red cabbage and ground tea and coffee," said Mr Jones.

"He painted murals including one of the Last Supper above the altar."

Mr Jones, from Llangrannog, near New Quay, became interested in Mr Ferlito's work when pupils at his school carried out some research into the chapel.

He added: "The children were so taken with the chapel that I wrote to Mario and eventually he and 15 other former prisoners visited Henllan in 1977.

"This led to a long and lasting friendship. Mario visited Wales seven or eight times after that and I went to see him in Italy about 12 times.

"Mario was a kind, warm and cultured man - he will be sadly missed."

Mr Jones said more than 50 PoWs either stayed and married local women after the war or brought their wives and families over from Italy to settle in the Henllan area.

Those who returned to Italy made an annual pilgrimage to Wales where they celebrated Mass at the chapel and visited former comrades.

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