Manneken Pis

June 22, 2017

Although some countries and cultures may find the Manneken Pis fountain to be inappropriate, it is one of the most beloved landmarks in Brussels. Literally translated, "Little Man Pee," the small bronze sculpture is of a young naked boy peeing (and carefully aiming) into the basin of the fountain. It's nearly impossible to not smile looking at it.

Manneken Pis

Description and Legends

Manneken Pis was designed in 1619 by Hieronymus Duquesnoy the Elder. Unlike most famous fountains that are large and elaborate this one stands only 2 feet tall. It's located at the spot where Rue du Chene/Eikstraat and Rue de l"Etuve/Stoofstaat meet. Through the years it has been stolen and recovered many times, and there are a lot of legends pertaining to the creation of such a simple yet peculiar outdoor fountain.

  • Battle - The first and most popular legend involves Duke Godfrey III of Leuven. The troops belonging to this 2-year-old duke were battling troops of the Berthouts in 1142. The duke's troops hung him from a tree in a basket, and when he urinated on the opposition, the Berthouts lost the battle.

  • Foreign Power - A foreign power was attacking Brussels in the 14th century. The city was holding its ground quite well, so its attackers were planning to blow up the city walls. A young boy was spying on them and ultimately saved Brussels when he urinated on the lit fuse to the explosive.

  • Wealthy Merchant - Some say that a wealthy merchant was visiting Brussels and his son went missing. A search party was formed and when he was found he was unharmed and urinating in the garden. To thank the locals for their help, he had the fountain made.

  • Mother - Similar to the legend above, a mother lost her child while shopping in the city. When he was found he was urinating in the street where the original fountain was erected.

  • Fire - A young boy was awakened by a fire. He used his urine to put out the flames, which ultimately kept the king's castle from burning.

 

Tradition

When you hear that the people of Brussels truly love this statue, it's the truth. He is dressed in a different costume a few times a week, and there are several hundred costumes in his wardrobe, some of which can be seen at the city museum in Grand Place. Changing the costume is a cherished ceremony, and is usually made complete by a brass band. For very special celebrations the Manneken Pis gets attached to a beer keg and cups are handed out to fill.