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Lady of Damascus, Birgu

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By XirCammini

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Now part of the Oratory of St Joseph, behind the Collegiate Parish of St Lawrence in Birgu, there is the historic Chapel of Our Lady of Damascus also known in Maltese as Tal-Griegi (Greek Catholic Church).

Prior to the arrival of the Order of St. John after their expulsion from Rhodes, the earlier church on this site was dedicated to St Catherine of Alexandria. With the knights came a contingent of Greek Catholics and, with the agreement of the Bishop of Malta, the chapel of St. Catherine was one of the chapels given to the Greek Catholics to practice their liturgy in the Byzantine rite.

The change from St. Catherine to Our Lady of Damascus did not occur before the visit of Inquisitor Pietro Dusina in 1575. The original icon of our Lady of Damascus was moved from this church to the Greek Catholic church of Our Lady in Valletta in 1587 however the chapel continued to serve the community until 1780 and in 1832 it was bought by the Confraternity of St. Joseph who added it to their adjacent oratory.

Our Lady of Damascus is now a parish museum and houses – among other items of value – the battle sword of La Vallette who, it is believed, was a regular visitor to this chapel.