Manneken Pis: Brussels Landmark

London has the Big Ben, Paris has the Eiffel Tower, San Francisco the Golden Gate Bridge, Delhi has its Taj Mahal and Brussels? Well Brussels has its Manneken Pis…
Brussels and its people have a lot of love for this infamous -little-boy-peeing-statue. And as a visitor you’d expect a grand and impressive statue with an arc of fountain water. Unfortunately this is not what you’ll find. Still the Manneken Pis (literally “Little Man Pee “) in Brussels is not just a landmark of the city, but in fact world famous.

When you do finally find him – he is not that easy to find – what greets you is nothing you’d expect, but rather a small bronze statue with a stream of “piss” that just about reaches 2 feet in front of him.

The bronze statue with its mere 61cm hight, was created by the sculptur by Jérôme Duquesnoy in 1619 and sits exactly between Rue de l’Etuve/Stoofstraat, Rue des Grands Carmes/Lievevrouwbroerstraat und Rue du Chêne/Eikstraat. There supposedly has been a similar statue before – but just like the Manneken – it was so popular that a pilferer got away with it. Today the original statue is protected at the Maison du Roi/Broodhuis on the Grand Place.

Manneken Pis, Brussels

Manneken Pis, Brussels

Legends surrounding the Manneken Pis

Who exactly was the the inspiration for the statue is not so sure, but there are many legends surrounding this young man.  The most famous one is about the Duke Godfrey III of Leuven:  The troops of this two-year-old duke, who were battling the troops of Berhouts in 1142, put him in a basket und hung this basket on a tree to encourage them and bring them luck. From there the infant lord is supposed to have peed on the enemy troop and so helped his men to victory.

A very fashionable fountain figure

You don’t only get to see the Manneken Pis naked either, as it has been a long traditional to dress him in various costumes for hundreds of years. Whether as an organ builder, Elvis, Dracula or Obelix, the Belgians love to dress their landmark in colourful costumes.

The tradition of costuming started in 1698 by the then Habsburg governor and Elector Max Emanuel of Bavaria. After Jacques Stroobants was responsible for the costumes for more than 20 years , Jean-Marc Ahim took over this responsibility in May 2005. There are over 500 different costumes.

Zinneke Pis, Brussels

Zinneke Pis, Brussels

 Other Statues

Jeanneke Pis

Jeanneke Pis

The female counterpart of the Manneken Pis is called Jeanneke Pis and was erected in 1985 by Denis-Adrien Debouvrie. You’ll find the Jeanneke Pis in Getrouwheidsgang. If you prefer to make it a trinity look for the bronze dog – the Zinneke Pis. Zinneke Pis is  a bronze dog peeing and can be found in the Rue des Chartreaux.

You will find Manneken-doubles everywhere around the world: In Japan he decorates a train station, in Rio de Janeiro he is a football club mascot and in Orlando, Florida for a short while he was allowed to be the flagship of a waffle shop.

When you find yourself in Brussels, by all means visit the Manneken Pis. After all it is the city’s landmark so should not be missed on any account, just don’t expect it to be that amazing or even mildly impressive. And don’t be fooled in buying all the touristy crap people buy. In fact you’ll be better off and definitely more impressed with the city’s beer and mussels.

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