The icon of Our Lady of Damascus hangs in the Greek Catholic Church in Valletta. This morning, I had the great pleasure of not only praying there, but having a nice talk with the parish priest, Father George Mifsud Montanaro. There has been a parish priest on this site from 1579, and the icon has been in Malta since 1523. However, this icon of Our Lady of Tenderness dates back to at least the 11th century, and was claimed by the Knights who saw it when it first came that they had seen it in Damascus-hence, the name. One expert dates this icon as earlier than the famous Vladimir Madonna, a favorite of mine.
Father George told me how the entire church was destroyed by the Nazis in WWII, and rebuilt by the faithful Greek Byzantine Catholics. It is a sweet little church and the icons are truly beautiful.
In a corner behind the iconostasis is another ancient icon, which was almost completely destroyed in WWII, not hidden away like Our Lady of Damascus. It was painstakingly remade, thankfully having the original faces of Mary and Jesus, which had not been touched by the bombing.
For those in the area, on Christmas Eve, there are Greek solemn vespers in the Church.