Expats Portugal - History of the Cockerel - Living in Portugal

Galo de Barcelos

If you’ve visited Portugal before, or have been given souvenirs from the country, then you’ve probably seen the famous rooster. Also used by Nandos in their restaurant chain logo as well as the Expats Portugal logo.

The Galo de Barcelos is the (unofficial) national symbols of Portugal. It symbolises honesty, integrity, trust, and honour and it’s said that everyone should have one in their house to bring luck. Pottery shops, or Artesanatos, and tourist shops are filled with vibrantly coloured Galo de Barcelos souvenirs such as pottery, table cloths and tea towels, key rings, and more. Most visitors to Portugal come back with souvenirs bearing the image of the rooster.

How did it become the symbol of Portugal?

The legend of Galo de Barcelos has been passed from generation to generation with slightly different stories that always end the same way. The legend tells of a rooster saving a man from execution after being falsely sentenced to death.

The legend takes place in 15th century Barcelos (a city and a municipality in the Braga District in the Minho Province, in the north of Portugal) with citizens upset regarding an unsolved crime, which was so awful that the people were scared to leave their houses at night. A pilgrim who was passing through Barcelos was arrested and sentenced to death for the crime, even though he had the excuse of passing through the town to fulfil a promise he had made during a pilgrimage.

After being taken to the judge who had sentenced him, the pilgrim proclaimed that as proof of his innocence, a cooked rooster on the table would crow at the hour of his hanging. When the time came, the rooster appeared in front of the crowd, and the man was spared.

This legend is often told with slightly different characters, but the outcome of a miraculous rooster saving a man wrongly sentenced to death is always the same. As the tale was passed down through generations, the image of the Barcelos Rooster became embedded into Portuguese culture, which is it’s seen so much on souvenirs and in Portuguese homes.

 

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