Portuguese Legends – O Galo de Barcelos

Galo de Barcelos

If you visit Portugal, you will see multiple variations of these colorful roosters nearly everywhere that you go. One of the popular (but unofficial) Portuguese symbols, the story of the Cock of Barcelos goes  so far back in history, that it would be difficult to discover the exact origin. Some place it in the 16th century. There are several permutations of the story. This one features a Spaniard from Galicia, who had come to Portugal to make a pilgrimage to a shrine. Given that any truce between Portugal and Spain at that time was, at best, an uneasy one I can imagine something like this happening.

A Spaniard from the province of Galícia, Spain, was making a pilgrimage to a Portuguese holy shrine. He stopped in the village of Barcelos to rest from his journey during the heat of the day.

That afternoon, a horrible crime was committed: one of the prominent men of the village was murdered. The alarm went out, and during the search, they found the Spaniard resting in the shade in an out of the way corner of the village. Since he was the only stranger in the village, they immediately put him under arrest, and took him before the magistrate of the village. He was found guilty, and condemned to die the next morning.

During the evening, the Spaniard poured out his heart to God for deliverance. Then, he begged, and pleaded with the jailor to take him once more before the magistrate, that he might try to persuade him of his innocence.

His request was so eloquent that jailor took pity on him, and took him to the magistrate’s home. The magistrate was eating supper, and not pleased to be disturbed, but he gave his assent. The Spaniard was taken into the dining room, and the magistrate gave him permission to speak. The man from Galícia made his defense passionately, but he saw his doom in the eyes of the magistrate. Just then, he noticed that there was a roasted rooster on the supper table. In desperation, the prisoner pointed at the rooster and said, “If I am innocent, that rooster will stand up and crow when you take me to the gallows.” Then the jailor took him back to the jail.

The next morning, just before sunrise, the Spaniard was taken from jail to the gallows. The executioner checked the rope while the magistrate stood nearby with the rooster on its platter – perhaps to mock the prisoner, or maybe to discover if he had told the truth. The executioner put the noose over the prisoner’s head, and tightened it around his neck. The sun peeped over the horizon, and suddenly the roasted rooster stood up and crowed. The prisoner was set free, and gave thanks to God and the saints for his vindication.

11 thoughts on “Portuguese Legends – O Galo de Barcelos

  1. Oh… you know what.. your blog makes me to really want to visit Portugal now.. 🙂
    For us Indonesians, usually we prefer to go to visit France, US or other “Well known” countries..
    Visiting Portugal will definitely be included in my list of “Places to see before I die”..


    1. I think that you would like Portugal. I have friends there that I still connect with on Facebook. Of course, that was twenty some years ago. Thank you for reading and commenting. 🙂 If you ever make it to the US and are in Florida, let’s get together.


          1. Wow…. 🙂 Please pray for me to be able to go there someday.. 🙂 The ticket from Indonesia is very expensive..
            Hopefully, next year I can go there to have a holiday..
            When is the best month to go there?


            1. Late spring is a good time to go. Or, early fall. Though it may be rainy. It’s a Mediterranean climate, seldom really hot or really cold.


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