WildGalicia

WildGalicia

San Simón Island

San Simon Island A thousand stories to tell you

If there’s any place that has marked the history of all the towns in the Vigo estuary, it’s San Simón Island.

Its apparent small size makes it go unnoticed by those who only walk around it, but inside there are thousands of secrets that have marked the history of different eras.

Monastery for different monastic orders (Benedictines, Franciscans, Pascualinos and even… Templars!), harassed by pirates such as Francis Drake, first lazaretto (also called leper colony) of the Atlantic coast and for almost 100 years, concentration camp for political prisoners in the civil war, national hostel for Franco’s guard or orphanage (Home of Méndez Núñez). And all that this has entailed… a bomb of history loaded in a floating copse. You can’t miss it!

Distance from Redondela to San Simón Island:

1.5 kms + boat/kayak (access authorisation required)

20′ walking + boat/kayak

Recomendations:

ReBook in advance, as there is not always availability to go to the island (depending on season and weekend), and the access request takes a couple of days.

 

Spend at least an hour and a half on the island and, don’t hesitate, get a good guide, it will make a… HUGE difference!

 

Nearby places:

Meirande Museum(Interpretation Centre of the Battle of Rande): 4 Kms (45 minutos)

Redondela

San Simón cove

Natural Area of Soutoxuste

Nearby QRs:

San Simón Cove

Redondela

Arcade

Natural Area of Soutoxuste

Más información en:

Tourist office (Redondela)

Websites of interest:

http://redondela.gal/es/la-isla-de-san-simon

https://www.cultura.gal/es/illadesansimon/historia

More information:

The island of San Simón appears documented with human settlement for the first time in the 12th century, when the existence of a monastery founded by the Order of the Temple is confirmed. As if it were a legend or a myth, the Templars walked around this island, beginning one of the first stages of this island: the monastic period. Other orders passed after them, such as the Benedictines, Franciscans and Paschalines.

The lack of protection and the passage of corsairs through the estuary made them abandon the island and there are no visible remains on the island to remind us of this period. Only the monument to the troubadours, who named the island of San Simón in their songs.

The first great stage of the island, where most of the current buildings were built and constructed, began when trade started to bring problems related to contagious diseases (mostly cholera, yellow fever and others) that could lead to plagues and epidemics after contact with other lands.

Hence the need to create the first lazaretto on the Atlantic coast (after the one in Mahón, Balearic Islands in the Mediterranean Sea). The island of Tambo, the Sisargas Islands and San Simón competed for it, the latter finally winning.

In 1839 the time of the lazaretto began, when the buildings were built (dining room, accommodation, infirmary…) and the great work that would mark San Simón: the bridge to the neighbouring island of San Antonio (so close that at low tide you can walk across), which began to be used as a dirty lazaretto (where the really sick went) and San Simón was left as a place of quarantine.

With all the stories that this entailed, almost 100 years passed and the lazaretto closed in 1927, being abandoned and various options for the archipelago’s use being considered.

In 1936 the Civil War broke out and the island was reused as a concentration camp for political prisoners. The buildings were put to new uses and some were demolished and their stone was reused on the island itself and in the surrounding area.

Numerous events took place in this place during this stage of the island, where thousands of people got to know these islands and whose stories are recorded in diaries and letters.

Once this stage was over, in 1948 it opened its doors again as a National Hostel for Franco’s guard. In its second year of operation (1950), the shipwreck of “A monchita”, a boat that took the users of the island to the beach of Cesantes, occurred. The boat capsized and overturned, killing 43 passengers. Seven of those who kept their lives were saved by a young girl who, after observing the shipwreck, took her father’s boat and rowed to the spot to offer help.

In 1958 a Cruceiro was established on the islet of As Corveiras in his honour.

After the tragedy, the hostel closed its doors, but it reopened years later as Hogar de Méndez Núñez, an orphanage for the children of sailors.

After the final abandonment of the island, there were many visits to the island. Some to enjoy themselves (for example to roast sardines with the family, as did the grandfather of the writer of these lines), others for more conflictive purposes: to smash, steal and break things up. The vandalism caused numerous losses and the island was abandoned and destroyed, until 1997, when the Xunta de Galicia took over the island and rehabilitated it by César Portela for cultural use.

All this and much more awaits you on this island. Are you still thinking of discovering it?

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