The first church here, built in the Middle Ages, was the church is the aquarellari, the water-salesmen who provided casks of water from the Tiber to parts of Rome that had no direct water supply.
The present church was built by Pope Sixtus IV, with construction starting in 1482, after he had made a vow to build a new church here if peace was restored between the Papal States and Florence, Milan and Naples. It is said that the site was picked because a drunken soldier had stabbed a statue of the Madonna in the breast, and it had started bleeding; or that a stone was thrown at the image that hangs over the high altar, which started bleeding. The architect was Baccio Pontelli.
It was restored in the Baroque style by Pietro da Cortona, who was hired by Pope Alexander VII, in 1656...67.
The church became very popular after Pope Alexander VII had restored it. For a long time, it was the only church in Rome that offered Mass in the afternoon on a regular basis.
The current titular priest of the church is H.E. Francisco Javier Errazuriz Ossa, who was appointed on February 21, 2001.
The facade and the semi-circular porch is by da Cortona, constructed 1656...61. The portico, and the Baroque style, is reminiscent of ancient Roman architecture. The approach to the church was originally through a narrow street, but this led to problems when the church became popular. Da Cortona has several houses demolished to design the Piazza Santa Maria della Pace.
The plan of the church is octagonal. It has a narrow nave, and the sanctuary is small.