This church and monastery complex is as old as the city itself and features stunning 16th-century architecture, a converted catacomb and 3,500 artworks.
San Francisco Church (Iglesia y Monasterio de San Francisco) is an imposing monument from Quito’s Franciscan Order heritage. The site comprises a temple, several chapels and a convent. The 16th-century complex takes up almost two blocks of Quito Old Town. The foundations were laid a short time after Spanish conquistadors established the town. Explore this enormous historic monument to discover the church’s 13 cloisters, elaborate Moorish-style designs and a vast collection of artworks.
Walk toward the church from Plaza de San Francisco and note the building’s Renaissance and Mannerist styling on its impressive, double-towered façade. The plaza is built on a noticeable slope, which archaeologists discovered was due to the complex’s construction on top of an Incan temple. Observe the unusually wide stairs leading up to the church. It is said that the stairs were designed this way so that visitors would have to watch their footing and naturally bow their heads as they approached the church.
As you enter the church, see the traditional Incan representations of the sun, which were intended to encourage the indigenous people to the church. This blend of indigenous and Catholic iconography occurs throughout the church’s interior. Look up to see magnificent Moorish-styled ceilings, contrasted with the Baroque details in the chapels, nave and golden high altar.
Wander through the church to see some of the 3,500 artworks in San Francisco’s collection. Some works are features of the Quito School of Art, including the celebrated Virgin of Quito, an 18th-century sculpture and city icon. Find the church’s expansive library and light-filled courtyard. Don’t miss the church’s catacombs, which have been transformed into a store featuring regional arts and crafts.
San Francisco Church is located in the historic Old Town neighborhood of Quito, behind San Francisco Plaza. The church is easily accessible by trolleybus, with the nearest stop at Independence Square, a 5-minute walk away. Parking can be found on the surrounding streets. Mass is held on Sundays in the church.