Originally a Roman settlement, it expanded and became the seat of the First Duke of Bragança in the 15th century. The palace of the Dukes of Bragança was destroyed by an earthquake in 1755 and is now an open-air museum.
The town's famous symbol is a rooster, in Portuguese called o galo de Barcelos ("the Rooster of Barcelos"). One of the many versions of this legend goes that a rich man threw a big party. When the party was over, the rich man noticed that his sterling cutlery was stolen by a guest. He accused a pilgrim and let him go to court. He protested his innocence, but the judge didn't believe him. The judge was about to eat a roasted rooster when the pilgrim said: "If I am innocent, this rooster will crow three times." When the pilgrim was about to be lynched, the rooster crowed. The judge released the pilgrim. The story ends a few years later when the pilgrim returned and made a statue over the event.
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- UMA POPULAÇÃO QUE SE URBANIZA, Uma avaliação recente - Cidades, 2004 Nuno Pires Soares, Instituto Geográfico Português (Geographic Institute of Portugal)