The best known legend of Portugal is “The Rooster of Barcelos”. This is an ancient tale spans as far back as the 13th century and tells the story of a pilgrim accused of stealing silver and sentenced to death.
According to the tale, the inhabitants of Barcelos were very upset about a terrible crime that had gone unsolved. As alarm was growing, a pilgrim on his way to fulfill a promise had the bad fortune to pass through the city.
Being a stranger, suspicion immediately fell on him, even though he swore his innocence. He was accused of the crime and condemned to be hung.
As he was being led to the gallows, he made a last request to be taken into the presence of the judge who condemned him. His request was granted and he was brought to the magistrate’s residence during a dinner party.
The pilgrim swore his innocence before the unbelieving eyes of the judge and his guests. Unexpectedly, the pilgrim pointed to the roasted rooster on the table and said, “I tell you now that as proof of my innocence, this cock will crow at the hour of my hanging.”
His proclamation was met with laughter and mocking comments. Nonetheless, no one at the party dared to touch the rooster.
As the sentence was being carried out, the roasted rooster stood up on the table and crowed. No one doubted the innocence of the condemned man and he was freed, just as the cord was tightening around his neck.
As legend goes, some years later, the pilgrim returned to Barcelos to sculpt the Calvary (or Crucifix) to the Lord of the Rooster (Portuguese, “Cruzeiro do Senhor do Galo“) in praise to the Virgin Mary and to Saint James. The monument is located in the Archeological Museum of Barcelos.
For centuries, this tale has stood for Honesty, Faith, Fairness and Luck.
- Honesty because the pilgrim was innocent; he did not steal and expressed this truthfully. This honesty was eventually rewarded by a miracle that saved his life.
- Faith in the power of God; if it weren’t for the pilgrims pious faith, the story may have had a different ending for him
- Fairness and refrain from believing unproven accusations and unjust snap judgments of our fellow-man.
- Luck because it was a rooster that saved the pilgrim’s life.
Today this symbol is still regarded as Good Luck around the world.