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The Legend of the Rooster of Barcelos

Updated: Sep 27, 2023

The Rooster of Barcelos ( o galo de Barcelos) is found all over the world. It is a captivating and protective figure, a true emblem of Portugal.

It's impossible to miss it when you arrive in Barcelos. This black cockerel with its huge red crest is absolutely everywhere and is the pride of the Portuguese people.

The legend of this rooster dates back to the Middle Ages. It begins with a pilgrim on his way to Santiago de Compostela. He had the misfortune to stop off in Barcelos, when the town was hit by a series of robberies and burglaries. The pilgrim is accused of being a criminal and sentenced to hang. As a last request, the poor man asked to see the judge, who was about to enjoy a rooster. He promised that if he was innocent, the animal would come back to life and start crowing. And it did.

Thus, in the slow process of the country's rise in tourism, Barcelos pottery and the image of the Rooster, which had already won the respect and favour of many anonymous and notable artists in that region, made its international debut for the first time, in Geneva, at the Exhibition of Portuguese Popular Art, in 1935. A year later, this exhibition was repeated, in Lisbon, with extraordinary success.

The statue of the Rooster of Barcelos is a unique sculpture that has become a famous symbol of Portugal. The statue is made of iron and was created by a Portuguese artist in 1940. The sculpture depicts a rooster perched on a block of stone, seemingly trying to free itself. The statue has become a symbol of freedom and courage.

It is with more conviction that, from the 1950s and 1960s onwards, the Rooster became a national tourism symbol and an icon of a nation's identity.

In the insistent attempt to value, preserve and make known the traditional forms of art of the Portuguese people and the ethnohistoric symbols of identity, such as handicrafts from this decade onwards, begins a succession of events, both inside and outside the country, with the tourism sector as its base for action.

The Barcelos Cockerel becomes a constant presence at exhibitions and promotional events. It appears as the main image on tourist posters promoting the Portugal of folklore, traditions, green landscapes, sun, and beach and the hospitality of its people. It became impossible to visit Portugal without bearing in mind those little chickens that constantly appeared in shop windows or in luggage, as souvenirs representing a ceramic of unmistakable character.

The city of Barcelos itself grew thanks to this clay figure, which every Thursday, in what is still the largest traditional fair in northern Portugal, reached its peak, embellishing the stands of the fairgoers and filling with pride the noble craftsmen who, genuinely, elaborated a national symbol.

A colourful and vibrant rooster, diverse in size and shape, stands as a testament to Portugal's cultural diversity and ethnographic richness. It symbolizes a united nation with a significant cultural history and heritage in Europe. These artefacts, embodied in the Rooster, serve as an excellent representation of Portugal's cultural legacy and make for a remarkable marketing asset.

Since the 1980s, the Rooster has encapsulated the greatness of its identity as an iconic symbol, yet it has detached itself from the ethnopolitical context that initially established it as a tourist symbol of Portugal. Instead, it now thrives as a symbol deeply rooted in popular Portuguese culture. Its power as a tourist symbol extends beyond its historical context and reinvents itself as a representation of a country that, above all, offers the world "Freedom".

The image of the Barcelos Cockerel is now associated with a modern Portugal, committed to universalization as a tourist destination, and definitively becomes a symbol of national identity, going beyond the boundaries of the municipality that gave it its name.

The belief that the Barcelos Rooster brings good luck when placed in a house and its head should face the entrance door is a common tradition associated with the symbol. According to the belief, the rooster's presence is said to bring blessings and ward off negative energies from entering the home. Placing the rooster in a prominent position with its head facing the entrance door is believed to invite good luck and protection into the house. While this belief is rooted in folklore and cultural traditions, its interpretation and practices may vary among individuals and regions.

As we conclude our journey through the legend, we are reminded of the power of storytelling in preserving cultural heritage. The Rooster of Barcelos serves as a reminder to always seek truth and stand up for justice, even in the face of adversity. Its legacy continues to inspire and unite the Portuguese people, transcending time and borders.

We hope that our exploration of the Legend of the Rooster of Barcelos has ignited your imagination and deepened your appreciation for the rich folklore of Portugal. Let this tale serve as a symbol of strength, faith, and the enduring power of storytelling.

As you travel through Portugal or explore its cultural traditions, remember the story of the Rooster of Barcelos and the values it represents. Embrace the spirit of faith and justice in your own adventures, and may it guide you towards a greater understanding of the world and its diverse narratives.

We hope you enjoyed delving into the captivating legend of the Rooster of Barcelos and exploring the rich folklore of Portugal. Now it's time to take action and continue your journey with us!

Here are a few ways you can engage further and share the magic of this legendary tale:

  1. Share the Story: Spread the enchantment of the Rooster of Barcelos by sharing this blog post with your friends and family on social media. Let them discover the fascinating legend and appreciate the cultural heritage of Portugal. Together, we can ignite curiosity and spark meaningful conversations.

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  3. Comment and Connect: Share your thoughts, personal experiences, or any additional insights related to the Rooster of Barcelos in the comments section. Let's create a space for meaningful discussions, where we can learn from each other's perspectives and deepen our understanding of this legendary tale.

By taking these simple actions, you become an active participant in preserving and celebrating the rich cultural heritage encapsulated in legends like the Rooster of Barcelos. Your engagement helps us continue to share these captivating tales and inspire others to embrace the beauty of diverse folklore.

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