The Barcelos Rooster, commonly called the Portuguese Rooster, is said to be the embodiment of the Portuguese love of life. As the unofficial symbol of Portugal, you can find this emblem in many forms in every local shop and especially gift shops. This national symbol is mostly found in its typical ceramic form as well as embroidered on towels and aprons. Other souvenirs include key-chains, paperweights, and other popular tourism gifts. The Barcelos Rooster is always vividly colored and is said to represent the embodiment of the famous Portuguese love of life.
The legend takes place in 15th century Barcelos. Citizens had become upset by an unsolved crime so terrible it had people scared to leave their houses. An impoverished pilgrim had been passing through Barcelos in order to fulfill a promise he made during a Pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela. Despite his explanation for being in Barcelos, he was still arrested and condemned to hang. He refused to go quietly and asked to be taken to the judge who sentenced him to death. The authorities granted his wish and brought him to the magistrate’s house while he was having a banquet with friends.
The pilgrim swore his innocence and pointed to a cooked rooster on the table. He claimed that the rooster would crow at the hour of his hanging as proof. The statement caused a large amount of laughter and mockery. The judge ignored the statement of innocence, but still set aside the rooster as he had lost his appetite. When the time for judgment came, the pilgrim went to the gallows to accept his punishment.
Right before the executioner could deliver his judgment, the roasted Barcelos rooster appeared and stood upon the table in front of the crowd and crowed just as the pilgrim predicted. The judge realized the mistake he had made and rushed to save the pilgrim. The cord was not correctly tightened and he was able to easily be saved from his death sentence. Later, the pilgrim would return to Barcelos. He sculpted a cross in honor of the Virgin Mary and St. James, who he felt was responsible for saving him with the miracle of the rooster. Today, this cross is referred to as the Cross of the Lord of the Rooster. This statue is still in existence in the Archeological Museum of Barcelos.
The legend of the Portuguese Rooster can vary depending on the telling, although the main story about the roasted rooster declaring the pilgrim innocent is consistent.
Whichever telling of the legend that you hear, the Barcelos Rooster is a common sight while you are visiting Portugal, with numerous souvenir choices emblazoned with its symbol. Now that you know the significance of the symbol, you can add this piece of Portuguese pride in your home after visiting our beautiful country.