Coming back from Lyons, the hermit Pietro da Morrone, founder of the Celestine Order and then Pope Celestine V, spent the night on a nearby hill, the Colle di Maggio, and had a dream in which the Virgin Mary asked him to build a church there in her honor. The church was consacrated on 25th August 1288, after many years of construction. The church's front is majestic and dates back to the 16th century. On the left of the entrance is the Porta Santa della Perdonanza (Holy Door), an elegant door of 14th century with the city coat of arms over the top. Celestine V issued a papal bull granting a rare plenary indulgence to all pilgrims visiting Santa Maria di Collemaggio through its holy door on the anniversary of his papal coronation. The Perdonanza Celestiniana festival is celebrated in L'Aquila every 28–29 August in commemoration of this event.
The interior follows the standard plan of a nave and two side aisles, each one divided from it by a row of columns, from which arches support a tall wooden ceiling. The floor of the nave is in the red and white stone as the façade.
Since 1327 in the church resides the tomb of Pope Celestine V, the only one pope buried outside Rome.
Parts of the structure were significantly damaged in the 2009 earthquake and the restoration ended in 2017.