Lonely Planet review
Walking from the old town's narrow colonial streets into the open Plaza San Francisco reveals one of the finest sights in all of Ecuador - a sweeping cobblestone plaza backed by the long whitewashed walls and twin bell towers of Ecuador's oldest church, the Monastery of San Francisco. With its giant plaza and its mountainous backdrop of Volcán Pichincha this is surely one of Quito's highlights.
Construction of the monastery began only a few weeks after the founding of Quito in 1534, but the building was not finished until 70 years later. It is the city's largest colonial structure. The founder was the Franciscan missionary Joedco Ricke, who is credited with being the first man to sow wheat in Ecuador. He is commemorated by a statue at the far right of the raised terrace in front of the church.
Although much of the church has been rebuilt because of earthquake damage, some of it is original. The chapel of Señor Jesús del Gran Poder, to the right of the main altar, has original tilework. The main altar itself is a spectacular example of baroque carving, while much of the roof shows Moorish influences.