International Urban Legends: Portugal

We have set sail for warmer waters and find ourselves in Portugal. What follows are three urban legends that, while lacking in the spooky department, are quite interesting.

The Seven Cities’ Lagoons

In a faraway time, near the Sete Cidades parish, there was once a kingdom. Antilia was said to be the most beautiful princess ever beheld by human eyes. But the princess was an unhappy prisoner of the castle and took solace in walking the nearby fields.

Portugal's legend of forbidden love

The Seven Cities Lagoons

One day, our blue-eyed princess encountered a handsome green-eyed shepherd. What began as regular conversations turned into love. But the King was not having it and ordered his daughter to cease seeing her love. Her pleas went unheeded, save one last permitted visit to say goodbye.

As the forbidden lovers bade farewell, their tears ran down the valley. The princess’ tears formed a blue lagoon, the shepherd’s a green lagoon. Those two lagoons have held their colors ever since. You can see them today, forever side by side but never touching the other.

The Miracle of the Roses

Queen Isabel was known to be kindly and generous with the royal treasury. She donated much to the churches and the poor to ease their suffering. Of course, leave it to a busybody nobleman to try to ruin it for everyone.

Tipped off by the snoop, King Dinis went to rein in his Queen’s spending and surprised her one day as she was about to dispense some charity. Her hands were covering her lap – where the money had been sitting before the King’s arrival.

Thinking to catch her in the act, the King demanded to know what she was hiding and refused to believe her when she said it was roses. It was not the season for roses at all and the King knew he had her. He demanded she lift her hands and reveal what lay beneath them.

The Queen complied and when she removed the covering hands, roses fell to the floor.

The Rooster of Barcelos Portugal

O Galo de Barcelos (The Rooster of Barcelos) is the unofficial symbol of Portugal. Travel there and you will no doubt have your choice of rooster knick-knacks to purchase – a ceramic rooster, t-shirts, key-chains, and the list goes on.

Portugal's icon of justice

The Rooster of Barcelos

The Rooster of Barcelos symbolizes honesty, integrity, trust and honor. It is a beloved icon to the Portuguese people.

As for the legend behind the giant chicken? Well, the people of Barcelos were once beset with a master criminal. His identity was unknown, so great was his skill. So, of course, when a pilgrim on his way to Santiago de Compostela passed through the village one day he was instantly pegged as the culprit.

He was arrested, convicted and sentenced to be hanged despite his impassioned pleas of innocence. As he was about to be led to the gallows, he made one last request: To be taken one last time to the judge that had sentenced him to die.

A final appeal

As he arrived at the judge’s home, a feast was in progress. In front of the judge and his guests, the condemned man repeated his claim of innocence one last time and added one last defense. He spotted the roasted rooster sitting on the table and said:

“My innocence is as certain as the roasted rooster will crow three times, if I should be hung.”

Okay, so everyone laughed and he was carted off to the gallows. As the hangman threw the lever and the rope tightened around the man’s neck, the rooster stood up and crowed three times. Fortunately, the noose had not been properly tied and the innocent man was still alive when the cut him free. His conviction was overturned and he went on his way in peace.

The man returned Barcelos a few years later and built a monument to St. Tiago and the Holy Virgin that he’d been on a pilgrimage for. And the people of Portugal have always remembered the rooster that had saved the life of a wrongly-convicted man.

About the author

Richard Paolinelli