Between 1471 and 1477, Giovanni Cinughi, the first bishop of Pienza and a member of one of the oldest Sienese noble families, had the church of Santa Maria delle Nevi built, an isolated sacred space outside the structure of his palace, located in the heart of the city of Siena, along the ancient route of the Via Francigena. A close friend of Pope Pius II, the bishop spared no resources for the construction of this building, which he did not see through to completion. Dedicated to Our Lady of the Snows, the Virgin who announced the miraculous snowfall of 5 August in the year 352 A.D. in Rome, the church helped to spread the Marian cult in the capital among both aristocratic families and the people.
The structure is still in its original form, with its Renaissance temple-like character, but the name of the architect who designed it is unknown. It is speculated, however, that the important figure of Lorenzo di Pietro known as Vecchietta, a painter, sculptor and pupil of Francesco di Giorgio, who worked in Siena after 1450, may be behind it. The stuccoes on the sides of the altar with St Joseph and St Mary Magdalene de' Pazzi are attributed to Giuseppe Maria Mazzuoli (1727-1781).