I know some people categorize this as a tourist trap, but I see it differently.
I had not heard of Manneken Pis, so had no pre-concieved notions of what to expect. Like the Little Mermaid in Copenhagen, the little guy is very small. Unlike the Little Mermaid, his wardrobe is huge, over six hundred outfits!
There are several legends about him that I have heard--mostly that he saved Brussels from destruction because he urinated on a bomb. What ever the truth is, the people of Brussels are proud of him and for that reason I'm happy that I was able to see the statue in action!
If nothing else, it was a great indication of the wonderful sense of humor the Belgians have.
The truth is that he was part of a water delivering system created in the early 1600's! Of course what we see is a replica. The original Manneken Pis is kept safe at the Musée de la Ville de Bruxelles
Maison du Roi
Manneken Pis is the name of the statue of a little boy who is urinating - he supplies water to what was at one time a water supply for the city. He no longer has that function. He was 'dressed' in costumes four times a year, but we did not see that. Now he has many costumes and there is a schedule that you can consult so that you can time your visit to the costume schedule.
I can only find two black and white photos that my dad took of Manneken-Pis, but I know he was fascinated by the statue.
“I raised my eyes, and beheld each pupil perched on a barrel, in the same attitude and performing the same action, as the Manneken-Pis fountain of Brussels. The fountains were playing in honour of my arrival.”
— from “My Memoirs” Volume 1 by Alexandre Dumas, writing of his reception on his day teaching at Abbé Grégoire’
Like icons from other cities, Manneken-Pis has inspired many imitations. Here are but a few found near-by to the fountain, usually employed to sell something, from Belgian waffles to chocolates.
Many legends swirl about the Manneken-Pis. One of them tells the story of a little boy who had pissed against the front door of a witch’s house, which stood where the fountain now stands. The witch grew so angry that she cast a spell that turned the little boy into a two-foot tall bronze sculpture.
Another legend says that a man had lost his young son. After two days, the father found the boy near the corner where the Manneken-Pis fountain is. The little boys was peeing when the father spotted his child. Out of gratitude, the father commissioned the fountain showing a bronze boy peeing.
“One of the curiosities of Brussels is the Mannikin Fountain, near the Hotel de Ville or City Hall. It has stood there since 1619, and all guide books note it. It is a great favorite with the lower classes, and its destruction would cause a revolution to which the French disturbance of 1789 was not a beginning. I can not describe it; but if you go to Brussels hunt it out and then exclaim as we did, ‘How ridiculous!’ ”
— Stephen Girard Nye, (1834-1906, California State Judge) on a 1901 trip through Europe with his family
POPULAR CURIOSITY Lower classes indeed! Judge Nye did not know that Russia’s Peter the Great paid court to Manneken-Pis, and, bowing before him, said, “Sir, I have come to see you, because you go to see no one.” Peter added to the pension that Emperor Charles V had settled upon him.
In the Middle Ages the Manneken-Pis was a decorative top to a fountain where locals collected fresh water. The current version dates to the 13th of August 1619 when the city commissioned sculptor Jerome Duquesnoy to design a new bronze Manneken-Pis. Over the centuries the two-foot tall pissing boy has been hidden to protect him from the bombs of invading armies. He has also been stolen several times by plundering soldiers.
Because of Mannikin-Pis’s popularity, we had to rise early for our crowd-free photo-op with the little man wearing his gay pride outfit (see photos #4 & #5). Archduke Maximilian of Austria gave him his first suit of clothes in 1698. Forty-nine years later Louis XV gave him a full uniform, and invested him with the Order of St. Louis.
A very small statue, almost missed it. Crowded, hardly possible to get a picture of you taken standing in front of it without any other tourists in it! But lovely and of course a must-see while you're in Bruxelles!
A whimsical piece of sculpture created by Jerome Duquesnoy in 1619, this is one of the cutest attractions in Brussels. Its keepers dress it up in all kinds of costumes, which change frequently. Thousands of visitors muse at it each year. It's also been the target of vandals and invaders. This city just wouldn't be the same without it.
There are always crowds around this fountain in fine weather and it makes you wonder why you went out of your way to see this small statute of a boy. I guess it is history with the original bronze statute first placed on the site in 1619.
In 1817 the original statute was stolen and broken, a replica was cast and that is what you see today.
This peeing little man is an answer of Brussels to the Eiffel Tower. There is a small fountain spouting from, well, his ... you guessed it. The first reaction you can hear : Look, I would have never believed that he is so small ! But I myself am on that opinion, it hasn't have to be big to be beautiful. Could you imagine what would be happen if he would be the size of the Eiffel Tower? I think the city would be always under water!
During high season, visitors from around the world gather to see the little statue's ever-changing wardrobe.
There are many stories about the little man. According to one of the many legends the little boy had peed against the door of a witch who lived where the fountain now stands. The witch was so angry that she turned him into a statue.
You should take some photos while you're there, otherwise, the family back home will never believe you.
The Manneken-Pis is as famous in Brussels as its Frites, Waffles and Beer. To say he is a bit small is a very big understatement! I was a bit surprised and disappointed that he hadn't been dressed up for Easter. Looking around the small streets here we noticed Santa climbing up some buildings so it is possible the powers that be hadn't got around to it. Don't let the crowds around this very small boy put you off taking his picture - just use your zoom lense and you'll be fine.
Okay, be careful on a windy day or the Manneken Pis may do it on YOUR HEAD...
The website below is the best place to find out about the history of this little pisser.
It also has a map with directions on how to find it.
We visited with our friends Gillian and Guy, but if not for their guidance we may never have found this small object that is so well known.
I think that most people are probably familiar with Manneken Pis which is a famous Brussels statue in a very unimposing street in an out of the way corner of Brussels.
He's a small bronze sculpture depicting a little boy urinating into the fountain's basin. There are many legends about this little man (and believe me he is quite small) including that he put out the fuse of explosive charges set in the city walls by urinating on it thus saving the city.
Personally, I think that the statue was at one time used to dispense liquor.
Since the mid-1990s, the Manneken has had a female equivalent, Jeanneke Pis.
And man, were there squeaks and squeals among the folks (I happened to run into an overly excited bunch of Japanese tourists) who were actually queueing up not only to see a little boy peeing, but also photograph the act too!
Imagine this: In the real world, all of us would probably be hauled to jail for being paedophilics!!
There are many legends attached to the origin of this statue. One claimed that a rich bourgeois who had lost his only son in a crowd during a popular festivities had the statue made to commemorate the happy occasion when he found his son 5 days later at the corner of Etuve Street, doing exactly what the statue was doing. Another legend claims that the statue was made to commemorate the heroics of a little boy who saved the city from its enemies from arson by extinguishing a wick. Regardless of its true origins, it was in 1619 that Jerome Duquesnoy Senior was entrusted by the Brussels tax collectors to make a statue in bronze of their most famous citizen. So it other words, little boy has been peeing for close to 400 years now.
My buddy informed me that from time to time, visiting dignitaries will dress the boy up in various costumes which makes a welcome change from his usual naked glory.