Rooster of Barcelos (Galo de Barcelos) is one of the most common Portuguese emblems. It can be found all over the country and Lisbon is no exception.
As the legend goes, this story unfolded in the city of Barcelos (it is located in northwestern part of Portugal) a long time ago.
Once upon the time silver had been stolen from a landowner in Barcelos. Everyone was looking for the criminal who had committed the crime. One day, a man from neighboring Galicia turned up and became suspect. The man swore that he was merely passing through Barcelos on a pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela to complete a promise he had made.
In spite of everything, the authorities arrested the Galician and found him guilty of theft. This was a serious charge for which a guilty verdict meant certain death, so they condemned him to death by hanging. The man asked his guards to take him in front of the judge who had condemned him. The authorities honored his request and took him to the house of the magistrate, who was holding a banquet with some friends. Feeling vulnerable in a strange village and knowing what his sorry fate might be, the Galician pointed to a roasted cock on top of the banquet table and exclaimed, "It is as certain that I am innocent as it is certain that this rooster will crow when they hang me." The judge pushed aside his plate because he decided to not eat the rooster. But still, the judge ignored the Galician's appeal.
But, as the pilgrim was hanged, the cockerel jumped up and crowed. Realizing his mistake, the judge rushed to the gallows and found that the pilgrim had miraculously survived due to a loose knot. He was released immediately.
According to the legend, the pilgrim returned many years later to carve the Crucifix to the Lord of the Rooster (Cruzeiro do Senhor do Galo) which is now housed in the Museu Arqueologico in Barcelos.
Ever since, the Barcelos Cockerel has been a symbol of faith, justice and good fortune as well as the country of Portugal.
As is the case with many legends this one also has many variations but the main part of the story is very similar in all of them.
Today one can find the famous rooster in many varieties. Walking around Lisbon you will get a feeling it particularly likes to hang out in various souvenir shops.