3 km from Piedimonte Etneo, slightly West of Fiumefreddo di Sicilia, County Catania, Sicily, in the church Santuario Maria Santissima di Vena, also called the Sanctuary of the Sacred Fountain, Black Virgin painted in tempura on very ancient table of cedar of Lebanon, believed to date from the first centuries of Christianity. 159 x 59 cm

Maria Santissima della Vena, Most Holy Mary of the Vein

Between 575 and 580 Saint Gregory the Great set out to build a monastery on a terrain around Vena which belonged to his mother, Saint Silvia. Gregory later ended up building five more monasteries in Sicily and becoming Pope. 

On this fine day he hiked with a group of monks and mules carrying everything they would need, tools and a Byzantine icon of the Mother of God. According to the legend, the monks wittnessed a miracle when they stopped to rest a while. The mule which was carrying the icon started to scratch the earth with its hoof and soon a spring gushed forth. The saint took this to be a sign that his monastery should be built here and called the place as well as the Black Madonna Vena, which means vein – as in a vein of water and a vein of grace. Under the icon an inscription reads: "Sancta Maria, Vena omnium Gratiarum ora pro nobis", i.e. Saint Mary, Vein of All Graces, pray for us.

The original monastery was destroyed, but the new church still stands on its ruins.