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Portugal’s Barcelos Rooster

Portugal’s Barcelos Rooster

by Tony Coelho

The Barcelos Rooster of Portugal, also known as the Portuguese Rooster.

Barcelos Rooster

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 of the Barcelos Rooster

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.


Different Stories of the Portuguese Rooster

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.

  • One variation claims that the pilgrim is a guest of the landowner and his banquet, where he stole his silver.
  • Another says the pilgrim is a guest at a local inn, and the owner of the inn falsely accuses him of the crime as a result of his greed.
  • In some legends, the pilgrim is from Galicia
  • A popular version has two pilgrims as father and son, where the son is convicted of a crime. The father then calls upon the rooster to crow for his innocence.

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.



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  • darrien josiah walker says... May 19, 2017   Reply →

    nice article thanks for all the information i really needed it

  • Susan Applegate says... June 8, 2017   Reply →

    The story I heard while in Portugal recently, was that a pilgrim, a holy man, was suspected of stealing from a farmer as he made his passage. Upon being bound and tethered and declared guilty, he protested his innocence and declared that if they wait to hang him, they will discover his innocence because the rooster will rise from the ashes of the cooking fire to crow his triumph over death. When this exact course of events happened and the rooster crowed at dawn from the ashes lying dormant beneath the cooking pot, the pilgrim was released. Furthermore, I had been lead to believe that the larger story that this principle illustrates, was that Portugal crowed its triumph over death when the Spanish, who held it hostage and in bondage, was overthrown.

  • Pingback: 58. Portugal: Rooster of Barcelos – My World Fridge Magnets says... June 22, 2017   Reply →
  • Deborah Pereira says... July 11, 2017   Reply →

    This story was truly intriguing. Would love to read more stories.

  • Susan Silva Medina Pabst says... August 28, 2017   Reply →

    Thank you for this story about the Portuguese Rooster. I had never heard it before. My first husband and I, many years before his passing spent a month in the Azores Islands, Madeira Islands, and Lisbon and outling towns. It was a wonderful trip with many happy memories. We visited family on Pico and Faial. I will never forget the wonderful friendly people we met.

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  • Deanna Caplin says... January 22, 2018   Reply →

    Wonderful – that was exactly as told to us when we were in Portugal

  • Joel Rosenboom says... March 6, 2018   Reply →

    My wife and I were in Portugal a few years back with a tour group, a lady with the group found this and the story in a shop and brought it to us to see and read. My wife said “So the moral of the story is “It is good to have a cock around”” We all laughed and we became good friend with her on the tour. At the last supper on the tour the tour director said “I have been told we have had someone in the group that was withholding her profession. It was the lady that had brought us the story, it turns out she was an Anglican priest. She can over to us and we all had another laugh.

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  • Joao Coderniz says... November 16, 2018   Reply →

    I would like to make a T-shirt with the Rooster of Barcelos on it. Does anyone know if the image is copywritten?

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  • Johanne Tyrrell says... February 14, 2020   Reply →

    I’d like to know who designed the distinctive art work of the Barcelos Rooster please? I cannot find any information about this on the internet? Thanks for replying.

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  • (Eileen) "Riki" Jursik says... March 18, 2022   Reply →

    My mother was from the Azores…Faial.
    her version. Ih early morning when all were sleeping the rooster wakened everyone with crowing,it became an alert that the volcano was about to rupture and they all found shelter.

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