The city of Barcelos, its rooster and its modern images.
Barcelos is a small town in the north of Portugal, famous for its handicrafts, decorative ceramic objects and its market. It is in this city that a legend was born about a pilgrim and a rooster, which later became the symbol of the city and then the symbol of Portugal. This national symbol is called today the Rooster of Barcelos or the Galo de Barcelos or the Portuguese Rooster.
★ The city of Barcelos
Barcelos is a city born in the 12th century when D. Afonso Henriques granted it a charter and made it a city, then when D. Dinis, in 1298, made his intendant, João Afonso, a Count and gave him the city.
It was in the 13th century that the city gained importance. The bridge and the surrounding wall erected at that time, the palace of the Dukes (Paço dos Duques) and the roman church (Igreja de Santa Maria Maior, Matriz de Barcelos) are evidence of this and are now the monuments that make up the historic centre of the city. Barcelos has retained its charm and offers a medieval atmosphere punctuated by mansions and historic houses.
Igreja de Nossa Senhora do Terço
This church has a very sober and simple facade that contrasts with a Portuguese Baroque style interior, a harmonious combination of paintings, sculptures and azulejos. The walls are completely covered with azulejos panels painted in 1713 by the master António de Oliveira Bernardes. The painted wooden coffered ceilings are also noteworthy, as well as the canopy pulpit and carved gilded wooden altars.
Igreja do Senhor Bom Jesus da Cruz
Built in 1704, in a style very characteristic of northern Portugal, using granite and limestone, this Baroque church impresses with its octagonal plan, thick walls and heavy granite dome, about 10 metres in diameter. It is distinguished by its magnificent 18th century azulejos panels and its carved altars in gilded wood dating from the 16th century.
Igreja de Santa Maria Maior, Matriz de Barcelos
Built in the 14th century, this medieval church offers an interior that offers a striking contrast between the sober Romanesque architecture, the 18th century azulejos panels and the golden and sculpted altars. On the outside, very close to the church, you can see the Pillar of Barcelos raised by the pilgrim at the origin of the legend of the cock of Barcelos.
The historic district
The historic district is concentrated around the medieval bridge that connects Barcelos and Barcelinhos over the Rio Cavado. This district is particularly highlighted by beautiful lighting at nightfall.
★ Barcelos market
The weekly fair is the event that gives rhythm to life in Barcelos, which claims the title of capital of crafts. This historical tradition dates back to 1412. Every Thursday, all the diversity of popular crafts, such as pottery, embroidery, weaving, basketry, woodcarving and ironwork come together. This is also where fresh produce from all the gardens in the region is sold.
The Feira de Barcelos is one of the main tourist attractions and inspiration for poets, writers and artists.
★ The legend of the rooster of Barcelos
Legend has it that the people of Barcelos were in a panic because of a crime committed in the city whose perpetrator had not been discovered.
To calm the inhabitants, the authorities arrested a pilgrim on his way to Saint Jacques de Compostelle. The pilgrim, who was quickly condemned, asked to be presented to the judge at a banquet with some friends. He again affirmed his innocence and pointed to a roast rooster on the table, saying: "My innocence is as obvious as it is obvious that this rooster will crow when you hang me."
What seemed impossible, happened! When the pilgrim was about to be hanged, the rooster roasted on the table and crowed. The judge then ran to the scaffold and released the traveller, who was able to continue his pilgrimage.
Years later, the pilgrim returned to Barcelos and had a monument erected in honour of Saint Jacques. Thus was born the legend of the rooster of Barcelos.
★ The ceramic rooster Barcelos
The traditional rooster of Barcelos is a stylized black ceramic rooster with a red crest, blue feet and wings covered with hearts. Portugal's most renowned artists and craftsmen have always expressed their creativity by reinventing this traditional symbol. Check out our selection of traditional and modern Barcelos roosters.
Joana Vasconcelos is a contemporary Portuguese artist who lives and works in Lisbon. In 2005, she was revealed at the Venice Biennale where her sculpture The Bride caused a sensation. In 2012, she is the guest of the Palace of Versailles for the Contemporary Art Exhibition.
In 2016, she exhibits Pop Galo, a monumental work inspired by the rooster of Barcelos. The artist Joana revisits it with a contemporary look, combining the tradition of national production of handmade tiles with the most modern LED technology.
Júlia da Rocha Fernandes de Sousa, commonly known as Júlia Côta, was born in one of the most respected families of Minho handicrafts. She is the granddaughter of João Domingos Côta da Rocha, known as the father of the Rooster of Barcelos.
At 83 years old today, Julia continues to shape clay. Her works are now part of private collections, are sold all over the world and are sometimes collected for temporary exhibitions or retrospectives. Find our selection of works by Julia Cota.
Modern art and the Galo de Barcelos
Today, the Portuguese tradition and the Galo de Barcelos is a source of inspiration for many young Portuguese artists.