The Barcelos Cock

The Barcelos Cock

If you are a regular visitor to Portugal, you will have seen the Portuguese rooster many times – always vividly coloured, it is considered to be the unofficial symbol of Portugal and the embodiment of the Portuguese love of life. 

But what’s the story behind him?

The legend takes place in 15th century Barcelos, in the North of Portugal where the residents had become upset by an unsolved crime so terrible that it had people scared to leave their houses at night. An impoverished pilgrim had been passing through Barcelos on his way 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 judge’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 rooster appeared and stood upon the table in front of the crowd and crowed just as the pilgrim predicted. The judge realised 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 honour of the Virgin Mary and St. James, who he felt were 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 Archaeological Museum of Barcelos.

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