During the Middle Ages, a school was built at the site, supposedly by the Emperor Charlemagne. In the 15th century, it became dedicated to the German-speaking residents of the city. There are two institutes of study and two chapels attached to the cemetery, one being the burial place of the Swiss Guards who fell in defense of the city against the forces of the new Kingdom of Italy in 1870.
In recent times, the cemetery was reserved for the burial of German-speaking members of the various religious institutions in Rome. In February 2015, Willy, a homeless Belgian man was buried in the cemetery, with the financial assistance of a German family, after approval by Pope Francis and reflecting his maxim that he wants "a poor church, for the poor".