The exterior has a double order of pilasters and small Corinthian columns, placed at the edges, joined to bases and winged cornices.
The upper order, contrary to the rigid lower part, has windows with alternating triangular and curved windows. Above the cornices there are four eagles, the symbol of the city of Todi, the work of Antonio Rosignoli.
The interior is bright, with the architectural elements which subdivide the spaces being of a light coloured stone.
The church was built to guard a Marian icon to which the population of Todi attributed many favours and which is still conserved in the Baroque altar of the north apse.
The building was constructed with stones both from the demolition of a fortress and from the travertine caves of Titignano, on a design by Bramante, although the work was started and done by others.
The attribution to the Renaissance artist is still under study, although documents from the 16th and 17th centuries indicate him as the author of the project.
Work began on 15 November 1508, on a pre-existing fifteenth century chapel and it took one hundred years to be completed. The construction was directed by Cola di Matteuccio da Caprarola until 1512; various master craftsmen, architects and sculptors followed until its completion in 1607.
Many famous architects of that time were consulted, including Baldassarre Peruzzi and Antonio da Sangallo the Younger, pupils and collaborators of Bramante. Successively also Alessi, Vignola and Ippolito Scalza.
Various artists carried out the internal decoration, including Filippo Meli to decorate the archivolts, Giovan Battista Gardona da Ligornetto and Francesco Casella for the crests. Andrea Polinori designed the upper altar which was sculpted by Angelo Pieri in 1612.
In 1613, a sacristy was inserted on the northern side which was then knocked down in fury by the people in 1862, after the Unification of Italy as it was not considered to be in harmony with the solemnity and purity of the lines of the church.
Legend says that the church was built due to the will of the people. It is said that a worker, blind in one eye, maybe a certain Iole di Cecco, carrying out the Commune's order to clear away the brambles in the area near the doors of Santa Margherita and San Giorgio, the place where the church now stands, had cleaned the dust from the face of the Virgin Mary on a roadside shrine covered by brush. By then wiping his face and eyes with this same handkerchief, he miraculously regained his sight. Thus after the event it was decided to build a church to celebrate the miraculous icon.
Information and useful advice
It is easy to get to Todi by car. Via the motorway del Sole, take the Valdichiana exit if you are coming from the north and the Orte exit if you are coming from the south. Continue on the E45 towards the Todi exit.
Umbria's Railway, La Ferrovia Centrale Umbra has a regional train which connects Todi with various locations in Umbria including the centre of Perugia, Perugia Ponte San Giovanni and Terni. Connections from the latter are available to the rest of Italy using the National Railway, the Ferrovie dello Stato.
Todi is 49 km from Umbria's International Airport of Sant'Egidio. This is connected to Milan Malpensa airport with two flights every day.