Instituto Santa Irene
The history of Vigo’s most emblematic secondary school
A key element in Vigo’s civilian architecture, the building that houses the Instituto Santa Irene (Secondary School) has a huge clock that marks the hour on the biggest local New Year's Eve celebration, making it one of the city’s most emblematic buildings.
It was built thanks to a donation made by the philanthropist Policarpo Sanz (one of Vigo’s main streets is named after him so you’ll hear or see his name often), whose story runs parallel to that of the city that welcomed him, since he was originally born in Marín.
When he died in 1889, he donated his entire fortune to Vigo with a few conditions: one was that after his wife (Irene de Ceballos) died, a stone building named Santa Irene was to be built and used as a school. His will was respected and the Instituto Santa Irene opened in 1946, under the condition that education was to be "completely free for children from poor families". Since then, thousands of locals have filled its classrooms and distinguished teachers have been part of the staff, like the great Galician writer Méndez Ferrín.
The Instituto Santa Irene building, designed by architect Antonio Cominges Tapias, is truly beautiful. It has an E-shaped floor plan that enables the entry of light and an eclectic facade where all the ornamentation is concentrated in the central body. The most striking element is undoubtedly the clock tower, and the stonework on white granite from Ulló (Arcade).
Are you going to spend New Year’s Eve in Vigo? The bells of the Instituto de Santa Irene’s clock announce the New Year in a very special way; facing the huge Praza de América, which is closed to traffic for the occasion, you’ll be part of an unforgettable street party.