The region of Barcelos boasts countless monuments, an unforgettable landscape and strong traditions. The regional wisdom and flavours are distributed across 89 parishes, encompassing a total area of 379 km2.
While located near major urban centres, Barcelos has managed to maintain its independence in relation to other Municipalities and it is ranked 12th nationally in terms of municipalities with the highest number of employees in the manufacturing industry. The principal business sectors are the textile and clothing industries, which employ around 40% of the population.
From its origins as a settlement in Roman times, the town later developed into a flourishing agricultural centre and achieved political importance during the 15th century as the seat of the First Duke of Bragança.
Over time, figures such as the cock of Barcelos, the Miracle of the Crosses or the Barbadão (Great Bearded Man) gain increasing presence and, independently of their actual veracity, they represent examples and lessons that have a strong regional flavour.
Every street corner in Barcelos presents us with historical and cultural landmarks. Churches, museums, temples and manor houses form part of an endless list of places to visit.
Barcelos Medieval Bridge
Commissioned by Count Pedro, it was built between 1325 and 1330. It has 5 arches, the central arch being the highest, thus complying with the class form of bridges of this period.
Tower of Porta Nova
This is the main surviving element of the former defensive system constructed in Barcelos during the 15th century, complemented by several sections of wall hidden between various houses in the historic centre of the city. It is a typical gate tower, since this was the main transit corridor until the Porta Nova (New Door) was opened. It was later transformed into a military prison and currently houses the Handicrafts Centre.
Church of Senhor Bom Jesus da Cruz
In 1504, several crosses were observed in the Campo da Feira (Market Square), originating the famous Miracle of the Crosses. That year, a small chapel was erected and, the following year, a statue of Senhor da Cruz (Our Lord of the Cross) was placed there.
Between 1705 and 1710 the octagonal-shaped church of Senhor da Cruz was built in the site, was built over an old chapel where a local cobbler was said to have had a miraculous vision of a cross etched into the ground. The church includes several important baroque decorative elements, such as azulejo tiles, carved woodwork and paintings. Today the 500 year old Feast of the Crosses occurs each May in this church.
Barcelos’ Mother Church is a gothic church with some architectural Romanic elements. It was remodelled during the 16th century, when the annexes that served the collegiate church were built.
Paço dos Condes de Barcelos (Palace of the Counts of Barcelos) and Barcelos Archaeological Museum
Destroyed by the great earthquake of 1755, the ruins of the Dukes of Bragança Palace now serve as an open-air museum featuring a 15th-century cross depicting the story of the cockerel.
This palace served as the dwelling of the Counts of Barcelos from the time it was built, at the beginning of the 15th century. It is an interesting element of Portuguese manor house architecture from this period, given that it was modelled after English manor house residences of the time.
Located within the Palace of the Counts the Archaeological Museum was officially established in 1920 by Miguel Fonseca. It houses several archaeological items, sourced from various parts of the Municipality, as result of one-off discoveries and also removed from architectural monuments. A key element is the Cruzeiro do Galo (Cock’s Cross), the ex-libris of Barcelos.
The Cock’s cross was located in the Alto de Barcelinhos near the gallows of Barcelos. It includes engravings allusive to the miracles performed by Saint James and the hanged man, popularly known as the Miracle of the Cock. One of the sides features engravings of the cock, the hanged man and Saint James. The other side features engravings of the Virgin and Saint Benedict - the patron saints of Barcelos.
The Municipal City Hall currently includes architectural elements that formerly pertained to the Misericórdia of Barcelos. We refer to the medieval hospital, the 17th century church and the primitive Town Hall built in the mid-15th century, which has a distinctive gothic arcade.
Also known as the “Picota”, it is located next to Barcelos Mother Church and is constituted by a robust base, an octagonal-shaped shaft and a highly ornamental “cage” on top, in a late Gothic style. The pillory is thought to date back to the mid 15th century or early 16th century.
Solar dos Pinheiros (manor house)
Built during the 15th century, this manor house is a fine example of the civil architecture commissioned by the aristocrats who had made fortune thanks to the Discoveries and overseas trade.
Largo do Apoio
The Largo do Apoio was the central square of Barcelos in the medieval era. It was the site of the crossroads between the street that connected Porto to Ponte de Lima and the main road of Barcelos. The square also hosted a small market of horticultural products, fish and meats. The houses of Nuno Álvares Pereira, the Carmonas and Alferes Barcelense overlook the square.
The Pottery Museum has around 7000 items sourced from various regions of Portugal, from the African Countries of Portuguese Official Language (the PALOP) and from other countries. The collection results from many donations made to the museum, field work in pottery centres and also acquisitions from private individuals and antique dealers.
Arising in a region with strong ceramic traditions, the museum was founded in 1963 after the donation of a valuable collection put together by the ethnographer Joaquim Sellés Paes de Villas Boas.
The valuable diversified collection of the museum represents the cultural reality of the Portuguese people. Through the collection of the most representative elements of each era and region, it is possible to perpetuate the memory of popular and cultural aspects of Portugal and also to ensure the transmission of knowledge concerning the evolution of other cultures.
The Museum consists of three floors and has three exhibition rooms, a room for cataloguing, restoration, reserves, archives, library, administrative services, meeting rooms and offices, an educational services space, an auditorium and a bar.
Festa das Cruzes
Being Catholicism the main religion, there is a large range of traditional celebrations in Barcelos, of which the most important is the annual Festival - Festa das Cruzes -, on the 3rd May, the local holiday.
The Fair of Barcelos
Every Thursday, the Fair of Barcelos located in the Market Square undoubtedly deserves a visit. It is one of the most appreciated fairs in Portugal, due to its colour and great size, the variety of products, as well as the rich handicrafts. Visitors can browse amongst the market's vast range of Portuguese pottery, most of which is handmade in small cottages and factories in the surrounding countryside.
The Cock of Barcelos
A Portuguese icon since the nationalist campaign of the “Estado Novo” regime, the Barcelos cockerel is part of an enormous collection of the northern ceramics. It owes its creation to a legend that tells the story of a Galician sentenced to hang and saved by a cockerel, which crowed after dying to prove the man’s innocence. Defining the image of the Barcelos cockerel over the years is no easy task, with the shape of the animal having been honed by craftsmen over the years.
The Legend of the Cock of Barcelos is one of Portugal’s most famous legends. According to popular saying, local inhabitants were alarmed about a crime, above all because they couldn’t identify the culprit. One day a Galician man turned up in the zone and was labelled a suspect. The authorities decided to arrest him and despite he swore his innocence, nobody believed that he was just on his way to Saint James of Compostela in order to fulfil a promise. He was therefore condemned to be hanged. But before his execution, he asked to be taken to the judge who had sentenced him.
He was granted permission and was taken to the residence of the judge who, at the time, was dining with friends. The Galician man once again swore his innocence, and before the incredulity of all those present he pointed at a roasted cock on top of the dining table and declared: «My innocence is so crystal clear that you can be sure that this cock will crow when they hang me». There was immediate laughter and gossip but no one touched the cock that night. And the impossible came true! As the pilgrim was hanged, the roasted cock raised its head and crowed. People were then convinced of his innocence. The judge ran at full speed and, to his amazement, he saw the poor man hanging with the noose around his neck but a loose knot had prevented him from being strangled. He was immediately let free and allowed to continue his journey. A few years later he returned to Barcelos and raised a monument in honour of St. James and the Virgin. The monument is currently in Barcelos Archaeological Museum.
The Miracle of the Crosses
In 1504, under the reign of Manuel I, on Friday, December 20th, around 9 am, the shoemaker João Pires returned from mass at the hermitage of the Salvador. When passing through the Campo da Feira (Market Square) in Barcelos, he saw a black cross marked on the ground. He thought it was a divine sign and so told other locals, who quickly thronged the area.
Several crosses appeared in the form of a black mark that grew until they formed a perfect cross. Their colour was not just visible at the surface but penetrated deep into the ground. However, deep the hole they dug, the cross was still to be found.
The “miracle of the crosses” originated a strong form of popular devotion. In that same year, in the site of the apparition of the crosses, a stone cross was erected with identical dimensions to that of the crosses that appeared by miracle. It generated such a strong wave of religious fervour that the local population demonstrated with processions and offerings, that they would build a hermitage the next year – 1505 – for which a rich merchant in Barcelos offered a Flemish statue of the Senhor da Cruz (Our Lord of the Cross).
The statue of the Senhor da Cruz is almost lifesized, made of oak and was carved at the beginning of the 16th century. Only the face and hands have been painted.
The Barbadão (“Great Bearded Man”)
The Barbadão is a stone figure representing a face with big beard and hands pulling at it. It is located in the south-facing tower of the “Solar dos Pinheiros” manor house, just below the cornice of the roof, and facing the Ducal Palace. There is a dual-faceted symbolism associated to it, derived from popular imagination. Some people say the image represents Tristão Gomes Pinheiro “in fury against the Duke Afonso, because the latter placed an embargo on his manor house works preventing him from building towers higher than those of the Ducal Palace”.
Another tradition, with greater symbolical and narrative impact, claims that the Great Bearded Man signifies “Tristão Gomes Pinheiro demanding revenge from a Knight of the Ducal Palace who had stained the virtue of his daughter”.
Typical hot dishes from the Minho region assume even more traditional and regional characteristics in Barcelos, marked by strong and spicy flavours. Once again, the variety available offers the perfect choice for all tastes. The hardest will be to choose just one dish from the gamut of roast pork, salted cod, chicken, duck and papas de Sarrabulho (shredded pork in gravy thickened with blood) prepared in various different styles.