Construction of the monastery, the city’s largest colonial structure, began only a few weeks after the founding of Quito in 1534, but wasn't finished for another 70 years. Although much of the church has been rebuilt because of earthquake damage, some is original. The chapel of Señor Jesús del Gran Poder, to the right of the main altar, has original tile work. The main altar itself is a spectacular example of baroque carving, while much of the roof shows Moorish influences.

The founder was the Franciscan missionary Joedco Ricke, credited with being the first man to sow wheat in Ecuador.