Anyone who travels to Portugal will notice the Barcelos Rooster anywhere they step foot – especially in the country’s many tourist shops.
But what is this rooster and why is it everywhere?
Dig deep into the legend behind the famous rooster and what it symbolizes in the following article.
The Portuguese Rooster, a national symbol of Portugal
The legend of the Portuguese Rooster
There are many interpretations of the Portuguese Rooster and explanations as to how it became a national symbol. However, there is one main legend that is passed down through the generations.
Back in medieval times, a crime was committed in the Portuguese town of Barcelos, with no suspects found.
However, around the same time, a pilgrim from the Spanish Province of Galiza was passing through the province. He was immediately suspected of having committed the crime despite his pleas of innocence.
The authorities decided to arrest him and he was later sentenced to be hanged.
Just before he was meant to be hanged, the pilgrim begged to be taken to the judge who had sentenced him.
Granting his wishes, the Galician once again plead his innocence in front of the judge. He went so far as to point to a roasted rooster laying on the table in front of him and claiming that the rooster would come back to life and sing his innocence.
The pilgrim’s claim was met with mocking laughter and the man was immediately swept off to the gallows. However, much to everyone’s surprise, the dead rooster rose back to life and began to sing.
The judge rushed to the gallows to stop the hanging, finally believing in the Galician’s innocence. The man was set free.
Many years later the pilgrim returned to the town of Barcelos. He erected a stone cross monument to the Virgin Mary and St. James, called the “Crucifix to the Lord of the Rooster.”
If you liked the story of the Rooster of Barcelos, have a look at our article of other Portuguese Traditions That Might Surprise You to Know.
How did the Portuguese rooster rise as a national symbol?
It is said that the first person to turn the legend of the Barcelos rooster into an object was artisan Domingos Côto. He designed the rooster out of clay initially, but as the figurines spread throughout the country, other artisans began copying Côto’s work, immortalizing the rooster in ceramics, woodwork, and souvenirs.
Interestingly, one of the main people responsible for spreading the Barcelos rooster as a national symbol of Portugal was dictator Antonio Salazar, who served as Prime Minister of Portugal from 1932 to 1968. Salazar was big on traditions and nationalism, declaring the rooster as an official symbol of Portugal.
If you’re interested in Portuguese symbols, head over to this article to read about one of the other most beloved symbols in the country: the national flag.
What does the rooster symbolize?
The rooster is said to symbolize:
- and luck
It is said that anyone who has a Barcelos Rooster in their home will attract good fortune and happiness.
Want to take a rooster home?: Five souvenirs you can buy in Portugal
You can find the Barcelos Rooster in any souvenir shop you enter in the country. Nowadays, the symbol is manufactured in almost any way you can think of – from kitchenware to tablecloths and keychains, the versatile rooster can join your household in all shapes and forms.
Take a look below at some of the most popular Barcelos Rooster souvenirs you can find in Portugal.
1. Classic Barcelos figurine
The most common souvenir you’ll find in shops is the Barcelos Rooster figurine. Normally painted in bright colours, the figurine comes in all sizes, making it a versatile souvenir to take home.
The rooster is typically painted in a variety of colours and includes designs such as hearts, flowers, and spirals.
2. Portuguese rooster tablecloth
Another popular way in which the Barcelos Rooster is incorporated into souvenirs is with embroidery.
You can find tablecloths with the rooster stitched on in colourful threads and patterns, in addition to many other types of embroidered items, such as napkins, towels, pot holders, and handkerchiefs.
3. Wooden boxes
While wood is a common medium for carving the rooster, souvenirs also come in the form of wooden boxes, jigsaw puzzles, and kitchenware with the rooster painted on.
In Portuguese, “azulejos” are a very popular item to take home.
As many Portuguese homes and buildings are constructed out of colourful, hand-painted tiles, the trend has spread to magnets, kitchen tiles, and other items that can be purchased and used to decorate your home.
You can find the rooster painted on tiles to create a backsplash in your kitchen or on tiles attached to magnets for your fridge.
From necklaces to rings and bracelets, the Barcelos Rooster makes an appearance on all types of jewellery.
Browse earrings with colourful, hand-designed roosters or gift a friend back home a charm bracelet with all sorts of Portuguese symbols, including the rooster.
See other popular souvenirs you can take home in 13 Portugal Souvenirs to Bring Home to Your Family and Friends.
Where is Barcelos?
Known for its handicrafts, especially pottery and ceramics, rooster souvenirs are aplenty throughout the town’s winding stone streets.
It adds to the traditional handmade, painted roosters, souvenir hunters can find many other coveted items, including the regional reed basket and religious figurines.
Sightseeing is another reason that visitors enjoy coming to the city as there is plenty to see and do. Head up north and check out some of the most famous attractions in the regions.
Torre do Cimo da Vila
As the city was built during medieval times, tourists can find many remnants of the era throughout the city. Including this enormous gate through which travellers had to pass in order to move from the north to the south of Portugal during the time.
This enormous tower plopped within several residences and businesses. It was initially used to defend the city before it was made into prison until the 1930s. It is now a centre for local artisan crafts.
Museu de Olaria
In addition to the famed Barcelos Rooster figurines, the city is known for its comical figurines. Exaggerated features represent traditional farmers, folk musicians, and religious figures.
This museum houses many of the figurines created throughout the years. Including those of famous ceramicist Rosa Ramalho, who lived in Barcelos her entire life until she passed away in 1977.
Igreja Matriz de Barcelos
This church dates all the way back to the 1200s. It was built during the transition from Romanesque to Gothic styles.
A large arch is the main feature of the church, which lies beneath an enormous rose window with beautiful stained glass. It depicts Jesus and the twelve apostles.
Additionally, an enormous statue of the Barcelos Rooster, complete with splashes of colour can be found on the lawn outside of the church.
If you are interested in visiting other off-the-beaten-track, yet breathtakingly beautiful cities while touring around the country, check out the most picturesque cities to visit in Portugal.
Can I buy Barcelos Rooster souvenirs in the airports?
Don’t have time to properly see the country and are just passing through one of the nation’s main airports?
You can find plenty of souvenirs in all of them. The Barcelos rooster will never be missing from any souvenir shop you set foot in.
You can even find souvenirs at the airports on the Portuguese islands if your trip doesn’t take you through the mainland.
If you have a layover in the Azores, take a look in the souvenir shops to find the perfect Barcelos rooster item to take home or check out other exciting gifts local to the islands.
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Isabel Leah Cohen is a writer for BePortugal. She has a degree in psychology with a focus in linguistics and communication and has worked as a journalist for global entertainment and lifestyle publications. Isabel enjoys writing about politics, health and wellness and travel. In her spare time, she enjoys staying active with her dog, traveling and reading books.