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San Simón



LOCATION: Redondela, Ría de Vigo

LODGING: Redondela lodging link.

PARKING: Dock, Cesantes (Redondela)

ACCESS: Roads between Vigo and Pontevedra: on the right the N- 550 and the AP-9; on the left, communications centre in Redondela (N-552, N-555).

VISIT THE ISLAND: Redondela Tourism link.

REDONDELA’S CITY COUNCIL: Useful information link.



Probably inhabited since prehistoric times and thanks to its strategic location, these islands witnessed some of the most important episodes of history, not only those that happened in Redondela or in Vigo and its ría, but in Galicia.

The first known settlement that took place in the islands can be dated to the early Middle Ages, in the IV century, and it was very likely to be a little convent.

Between the XII and XIII centuries, the Order of the Temple was settled in the islands. It was during this period when the San Simon’s hermitage was built. Later on, the islands were transmitted from the Castilla y León kingdom to Tui’s bishopric in 1370.

From 1507, the convent in San Simón’s island became the Order of the Pascualine Reform of the Saint Gospel headquarters until the death of its founder in 1583. In 1585, the British corsair Sir Francis Drake attacked the ría de Vigo and looted the island. Four years later, he repeated it and set the convent on fire. After that, the island was abandoned until Franciscan monks inhabited it again and restored the destroyed buildings in the island in 1602.

During the Batalla de Rande (Rande’s Battle) in 1702, San Simón’s Convent was looted and burnt again. The monks in the Benedictine Order were the ones who rebuilt and inhabited the island again. After another assault, looting and fire in 1719, the monks left the island almost abandoned.

In 1842, the San Simón’s Isolation Hospital was settled in the island and during decades took in every person who came from America by Spanish ships to quarantine them.

This hospital had a great impact on Vigo’s economy, by then a little city with just 7,000 inhabitants. The biggest beneficiaries were the workshops, carpenters, smithies, inns and taverns and they turned the city in the most important port in the Atlantic Spanish coast.

In 1898, the majority of the soldiers who came ill, hurt and maimed from Cuba’s War were hospitalized in the San Simón’s Isolation Hospital. Even after being closed as a hospital, in 1927, the hospital kept working as an epidemic illnesses treatment and prevention center.

Between 1939 and 1944, the Island lived its cruelest period. The dictatorship regime turned it into a concentration camp for war prisoners. The prisoners were distributed in different buildings inside San Simón’s island while San Antonio’s island was used to lodge the military police in charge of the camp. The increasing number of prisoners in the island made it easy for health problems to appear and for the prisoner’s life conditions to deteriorate.

In 1948 the islands became a place to spend the summer for Franco’s personal police. However, due to a maritime accident in 1950 in which 43 of those policemen died, the islands were abandoned again. Between 1955 and 1963, the facilities were used by Hogar Méndez Núñez para la Formación de Huérfanos de Marineros (Méndez Núñez home for the education of seamen orphans).

In 1999, the islands were declared as a Place of Cultural Interest stating they were a Historic Place. From 1998, the restoration works started, following a project of the architect César Portela. The goal was to add value to the islands and use them for cultural aspects. This put an end to the long period of abandonment of one of the most historical and significant enclaves in the ría de Vigo and in Galicia.

The island of Thoughts

The Island of Thoughts follows the tradition of our ancestors and takes advantage of the maritime vocation, the historic importance, the heritage value and the landscape beauty of San Simón’s island to go beyond the restoration effort made by the public administration.

The moment to build a great lab of ideas with a globalizing projection, multidisciplinary vocation and a new identity where the creative, magic, artistic and critical thinking lightens all the activities and actions developed in the archipelago has come.

San Simón’s natural appearance is the best presentation the islands have. The archipelago is formed by two little islands, joined by a bridge, and two little islets at the bottom of the ría de Vigo, very close to land.



William Makepeace Tackeray, British writer. In his novel “The History of Henry Esmond” (1852) tells the victory of the Anglo-Dutch fleet, under the orders of Sir George Rooke, through the eyes of Henry Esmond, a crewman in the English fleet.

Jules Verne, a well-known writer, wrote a whole chapter about the Ría and the treasures hidden in it in his book Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea (1869). In that chapter, entitled “Vigo Bay” (ría de Vigo), he tells how Captain Nemo explains the story of the battle of Vigo Bay to his prisoner and guest, professor Aronnax. Nemo recollects the hidden treasures in the depths of San Simón’s cove in order to fund his adventures in the oceans inside his submarine, the Nautilus.

In the non-narrative field, Padre Feijoo (1676-1764) and his poems entitled “Llanto de la flota, por una ninfa gallega” (Fleet’s weep for a Galician nymph) dedicated to Rande and Avelino Rodríguez with his narrative poem “La escuadra de plata” (The silver fleet) stand out as the best writers. This narrative poem dated in 1702 details the battle of Vigo Bay and the lack of prevention and weapons that the Franco-Spanish troops suffered from and how it all ended in tragedy.

In 1962, Robert Stenuit, a Belgian writer, published his book Os galeóns de Rande (The Galleons in Rande). In the book, he tells de adventures and expeditions which took place to recover the treasures and mysteries lying at the bottom of the ría, such as the Saint Christ of Maracaibo or the splendid captain ship. Robert Stenuit also wrote about the arriving of the galleons and the English fleet to London’s port and he details the amount of riches gained in the battle.

Furthermore, Manuel Rivas in The Carpenter’s Pencil (1998), Agustín Fernández in Noite de voraces sombras (Night of voracious shadows) (2002) and Rexina Vega in Cardume (Bank of Fish) (2007) wrote about San Simón’s island during the period it was used as a prison. The authors take advantage of historical facts which happened in the island to develop the action in their books.

Manuel Vázquez Montalbán, another writer, set his novel Erec y Enide (Erec and Enide) (2002) in San Simón’s island as the venue of the tribute received by his main character, an old professor of Medieval Literature.



The botanic park in San Simón has a great personality thanks to the sculptures lying both outdoors and indoors. In the archipelago, we can find works by Francisco Leiro, Manolo Paz, Manuel Ferreiro Badía, Moncho Lastra, Silverio Rivas, Francisco Remiseiro, César Lombera, Manuel Coia, Sergio Portela or Jorge Barbi.

Jorge Barbi talking in memory of prisoners in San Simón: “The stone footprints, distributed on the West side of the cemetery, are in the place that some of those people could have been in, heating themselves at the sunlight, while sitting on the wall that prevents them to fall to the Ría, gathered together looking for hope.”



- San Simón stage: It is the main stage of the festival and is located in the east side of San Simón’s island. The main performances are taking place in here.

- San Antón stage: It is located in the northeast side of San Antón’s island and part of the activities scheduled for the morning take place in it.

- Paseo dos Buxos stage: It is right next to San Simón’s Chapel and near the restaurant zone. It is an all-day-long- performances stage.

- Hidden Music: These are different locations prepared for semi-acoustic music performances all over the island. The capacity of these places ranges from 40 to 50 people. These stages are in San Antón’s cemetery, Huerta de San Simón, Casa de Baños, etc.

San Simón stage

San Antón stage

Paseo dos Buxos stage

Lucía Riveiros at San Antón’s cemetery singing to Martín Códax



Apart from the main performances, Sinsal San Simón presents different parallel activities each year.

- Hidden Music: These are the last incorporation to the schedule. Hidden music are performances for a little audience which take place all over the islands.

- Radio Stage: This is the place where the artists and guests talk. In the last edition of the festival, various round tables were set to talk about culture-related topics.

- Other activities: Workshops, performances, exhibitions, or presentations of cultural management suggestions are organized during the weekend and they vary every year.

The Huerta de San Simón, one of the Hidden Music stages



2010: Ariel Pink´s Haunted Graffiti

2011: 2uS; Wooden Wand; Buke and Gass; Murmel Bruxas; The Marzipan Man; Mweslee; BFlecha; Jane Joyd; Kellies; Fat 32; Laetitia Velma; Secret Chiefs 3.

2012: Hoquets, L´Enfance Rouge, Al-Madar, Maïa Vidal, Alela Diane, Christian Kjellvander, Aries, Nite Jewel, Unicornibot, Alt-J, Shangaan Electro
2013: Caxade, Triángulo de Amor Bizarro, Germán Díaz, Le Parody,
Gravenhurst, Baden Baden, Stealing Sheep, Denis Jones, Lucía Riveiros, Rafa Yebra, Miniaturas de Granell.