10 things to know about the Portuguese Rooster or Galo de Barcelos

It's the most famous rooster in the world! Known as the Barcelos Rooster, the Portuguese Rooster, or the Portuguese Rooster of Luck, this clay figurine holds a special place as Portugal's unofficial national symbol, symbolizing good luck, honesty, and faith. Perhaps you've encountered it before, but what's the story behind this iconic figure? In this post, I'll share some intriguing facts about the beloved Barcelos Rooster, introduce you to the town where it originated, and uncover the legend surrounding it. Additionally, you'll find a delightful selection of gifts adorned with designs inspired by the Portuguese Rooster, all crafted by me and produced in the USA by Zazzle.

The Barcelos Rooster goes by various names, including The Portuguese Rooster, The Barcelos Rooster, and The Portuguese Rooster of Luck.

This ceramic rooster traces its origins to the town of Barcelos, located within the Braga District in northern Portugal. The name "Barcelos" is derived from "barca celi," meaning a small boat used to cross the local Cávado river.

The legend associated with the Barcelos Rooster is believed to have been incorporated into local folklore between the 16th and 18th centuries.

The rooster of Barcelos embodies several essential values. It symbolizes honesty, faith, justice, and luck. It represents honesty because, in the legend, the pilgrim was innocent and received a miraculous pardon from God. It embodies faith since the pilgrim placed trust in God, leading to his salvation. The rooster exemplifies justice by cautioning against making accusations or judgments without sufficient evidence. Finally, it signifies luck as the rooster brought good fortune to the pilgrim.

A rooster is inherently associated with positive aspects—the crowing of the rooster marks the beginning of a new day, and roosters often feature atop tall structures, acting as weather vanes to indicate wind direction.

A significant historical artifact is the "Senhor do Galo," a stone cross located in Barcelos. This stone cross features a carved rooster and a depiction of a hanged man, dating back to the 17th century. The "Senhor do Galo" is now preserved in the Archaeological Museum of Barcelos.

The design and shape of the rooster have evolved over time, with a relatively stable design since 1960. The traditional Portuguese rooster boasts a round tail with serrated triangular edges, a typically green or blue pedestal, yellowish legs, and a medium-sized, straight, and rounded beak usually painted golden or yellow, like the eyes and earlobe-holes. Its large half-circle wings are at a distinct angle. The background color is usually black, but sometimes red, cream, or blue-gray. Roosters are adorned with floral decorations, featuring white or colored spots and heart-shaped motifs.

During the Estado Novo (New State), a period of authoritarian rule lasting 48 years and ending with the Carnation Revolution in 1974, the Galo de Barcelos became an emblem of national tourism and symbolized Portugal's identity. Under the guidance of António Ferro, an intellectual responsible for the Secretariado de Propaganda Nacional (SPN), the national propaganda bureau of the dictator Salazar, a competition was initiated to determine the "Most Portuguese Village of Portugal." The original idea was to award a rooster as the prize, but it evolved into something grander. In Ferro's view, the rooster could become the embodiment of Portugal—a country characterized by its rural population of obedient yet creative individuals. This vision was successfully realized.

The Barcelos Rooster has inspired countless Portuguese designers. The rooster's surface has been reimagined with various designs, and artists have employed a range of materials. This traditional piece of folklore art has undergone a modern renaissance, transforming into a contemporary decorative object.

Although the Barcelos Rooster is beloved by many, some Portuguese find it a bit kitschy. Personally, I've always held a fondness for the Portuguese Rooster, and this December, I decided to showcase some illustrations depicting the Rooster's holiday spirit.

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