Portugal is steeped in history and tradition, folklore and myths. To follow is an insight into the many stories and legends. Whether they are true or not – we don’t know, but hopefully you will enjoy the tales!
You may have seen some very ornate chimneys adorning whitewashed cottages and houses around the Algarve. These designs derive from the Moorish influence in Portugal but with many legends attached to them!
One of the many stories is that the chimneys are built to protect the family inside from evil spirits, the holes at the top wide enough to let smoke out but too small to let the devil in! Another story is that the larger the chimney, the wealthier the family – so now you know how to spot a man with money!
The Barcelo’s Cock
You may be wondering about the Barcelo’s cock that you see on so many items around the souvenir shops. This is a symbol of Portugal. there are many variations of the legend but all are basically the same.
At a banquet given by a rich landowner in Barcelo’s, the silver was stolen and one guest was accused of theft. He was tried by a court and found guilty. In spite of overwhelming evidence against him, he still protested his innocence. The magistrate granted him a final chance to prove his innocence. Seeing a cock in a basket nearby he said “If I am innocent the cock will crow”. the cock crowed and the man was set free!
Some stories say that the cock crowed at the magistrate when he was just about to eat it, while others say that the man was hanged and then the cock decided to profess his innocence and the magistrate died racked with guilt. Some of these versions are slightly unbelievable but the basis is the same.
The Almond Blossom
During the long Moorish occupation of the country, it is said the the ruler fell in love with a beautiful slave–girl from a far–off northern land. They were married and she tried to adjust to her new life but nostalgia for the snows of her home led her to fall into a slow decline. When the wise king learned the cause of her sadness, he ordered a forest of Almond trees to be planted everywhere within sight of his Algarve castle. The next February, he awakened his beautiful bride from her melancholy sleep and carried her to the window. The fields were white with a sea of Almond blossoms. The gift of her loving king cured her maialse in one brilliant flash.
If you come to the Algarve in late January or February, you can enjoy this sight. The local poet, Candido Guerrerio, summed up the annual miracle…
“When in February from heaven
God write his Algarve poetry in moonlight
His beautiful verses rhyme
The blossoms of the almond trees with snow”
Everywhere you go in Portugal, you will see the “Azulejos”, multi–coloured enameled tile squares which recall the centuries of Moorish occupation. “Azulejos” are classless. They cover the walls of palaces and cottages alike.
The Moors who brought the “Azulejos” to the Iberian peninsula in the Middle Ages may have borrowed the techniques and geometric designs from the Persians. Portugal’s first “Azulejos” date from the 16th century. By the 17th century, blue and white had regained flavour…
Inside many Portuguese churches, large mosaics of tile squares take the place of traditional tapestries. They are decorated with flowery abstracts or tableaux depicting biblical incidents.
You can buy hand-painted modern versions with traditional or even light-hearted designs or single squares showing an Algarve chimney, folklore costume or a Portuguese crowing cock! Wonderful souvenirs – you can buy a whole ensemble of “Azulejosquot; to enliven your patio or kitchen.
Another Algarve superstition! – As you pass through villages in the Algarve, you will notice different coloured strips painted around doors and windows – these are for decoration but there is also a story attached to them all.
Long ago, the people of the Algarve were very superstitious, especially fishermen and farmers and they though if they painted different colours around doors and windows, it would have an effect on the spirit world.
For example, the devil is supposed to be afraid of the colour blue, so of course, to ward him off, the borders were painted blue. The fishermen used this colour for the reason also to remember the sea if they moved into the hills on retirement.
“Yellow bands around the windows and doors bring money
Red should bring good luck
Green signifies hope
Pink homes used to indicate love and many newlyweds use this colour”
Although nowadays, the locals are not so superstitious, houses are still painted in bright colours to keep the tradition alive.