Manneken Pis is a landmark in the centre of Brussels. It is a little bronze statue of a boy peeing into the basin of a fountain. The earliest mention of Manneken Pis is in the 1400s but this most famous version dates from the 1600s. Lots of legends surround the statuette and he has been through a lot, from bombings to theft and reincarnations. Curious to discover more? Here are some of the most interesting facts about Manneken Pis.
7 Interesting Facts About Manneken Pis in Brussels
1. Little man pee
In the Dutch dialect of Marols, Manneken-Pis literally means “little man pee”. In French, he is le petit Julien “Little Julien”. He is one of the most famous and beloved citizens of Brussels, the capital city of Belgium. Many people also call him the statue of ‘the pissing boy’. The statuette depicts a naked little boy urinating into the basin of a fountain.
2. Manneken-Pis dates back to the 1600s
Jérôme Duquesnoy the Elder designed the bronze Manneken Pis and it was installed in 1618 or 1619 on the corner of the Rue de l’Étuve/Stoofstraat and the Rue des Grands Carmes/Lievevrouwbroerstraat in the centre of Brussels. The statuette measures 55.5cm and weighs 20kg.
3. Manneken-Pis symbolises zwanze
The statue embodies zwanze, the semi-sarcastic sense of humour associated with the people of Brussels. However, Manneken Pis also symbolises triumph over enemies. This is due to the fact that he survived the bombardment of Brussels by the French in 1695. After the bombardment, the biblical passage was engraved above his head: In petra exaltavit me, et nunc exaltavi caput meum super inimicos meos (“The Lord placed me on a stone base, and now I raise my head above my enemies”).
4. Manneken Pis has over 1,000 outfits
Since the 18th-century, officials have dressed up Manneken Pis to mark special occasions and festivals. A worker of the City dresses the little boy in different outfits. You’ll find the scheduled outfit changes posted on the railings around the fountain. Manneken Pis has over 1,000 costumes. To celebrate the 60th anniversary of Expo 58, the Atomium gave Manneken-Pis his 1,000th outfit. You can view all the outfits in the GardeRobe MannekenPis museum. Louis XV, King of France in 1747 gave Manneken Pis a gown and it is the oldest outfit in the collection. To donate an outfit, countries must send an official request to the Board of Mayor and Aldermen of the City of Brussels. In the museum, at least one outfit represents every European country.
5. People have stolen Manneken Pis
In 1745, English soldiers stole the statue. It was found in the Flemish city of Geraardsbergen and returned to Brussels. To say thanks, the city of Brussels gifted a replica of Manneken Pis to Geraardsbergen. However, this seems to be a local legend as the statue in Geraardsbergen is reputed to be 160 older than the one in Brussels. Then, in 1747, a group of French Grenadiers under the command of Louis XV of France stole the peeing statue. The people of Brussels revolted and to calm things down, the King returned the statue and donated a gown and sword for the little man to wear and carry. Then, in 1817, a fugitive stole the statue and smashed it into 11 pieces. Experts pieced him back together and made a mould to construct a replica. Following this, in 1963, Antwerp Student’s Union de Wikings stole it as a prank but they returned him unharmed. The final theft occurred in 1965 with the perpetrator breaking the statue off at the ankles. Divers found the statue in the Charleroi Canal in 1966.
6. Manneken Pis is in a muesum
When the divers returned the statute to Brussels, it was restored and sent to the Brussels City Museum. The City commissioned a replica statue and this is the one you see today at the fountain.
7. Manneken Pis is a muse
Manneken Pis inspired other peeing statues in Brussels. For instance, nearby is his female counterpart, Jeanneke Pis and Zinneke Pis, a urinating dog, is located on Rue des Chartreux.