The image of the Black Virgin, which appeared in the mountains near Barcelona, is very popular in Spain. The church was built on the site of a house bought by Pope Innocent VI (1352-1362) as a hospice for Catalan pilgrims. Construction started in 1518, led by Antonio Sangallo the Younger, on orders from Pope Alexander VI (1492-1503). Because of political conflicts between Rome and Spain, and because the Borgia Alexander VI was hugely unpopular, the church was not completed before more than a century later.
St Ignatius of Loyola hung up his sword at the shrine of Our Lady of Montserrat in Catalonia, and he used to preach and catechise at this church.
Many of the works of art were moved here from Nostra Signora del Sacro Cuore when that church seized to function as the Spanish national church in the 17th century.
The second chapel on the left contains a painting of the same motif as the shrine above the door. It also has a reproduction of the Madonna.
The painting of San Diodeo de Alcala is by Annibale Caracci.
A statue of St Jerome is by Jacopo Sansovino.
In the courtyard and the side chapels are some 15th century tombs by Andrea Bregno and Luigi Capponi.
The bust of Cardinal Pedro Foix de Montoya, a benefactor of the church, is by Bernini. It is one of his early works.