Salute to the Manneken Pis

What’s not to love about the Manneken Pis? Brussels is the capital of Europe and of a country that’s renowned for being boring – and yet one of its most famous icons is the statue of a little boy urinating.

Best of all, those crazy Belgians dress him up in little clothes…

The Mannequin Pis in Brussels, Belgium.

Erected (sorry!) at the corner of Rue de l’Etuve and Rue des Grands Carmesin the 17th century, this bronze statue stands at roughly 61cm tall and apparently has a wardrobe comprised of more than 800 little outfits.

Why does the city of Brussels have a statue of a little boy peeing? According to legend it was built to commemorate the time that the infant Duke Godfrey III of Leuven urinated on some enemy troops while hanging from a basket in a tree.

Another legend of the Manneken Pis was that the fountain was built by a grateful  merchant whose son went missing one day in Brussels, only to be discovered happily urinating in someone’s back garden.

Both of these stories are bullshit, of course, but it’s funny to think of why someone would make such a thing.

The Mannekin Pis in Brussels, Belgium

Not so funny is the fact that this boy poor has been kidnapped a bunch of times – first by the English in 1745 and then two years later by the French. The Manneken Pis was stolen by a Frenchman again in 1817 and was found broken into pieces.

And just this month the Manneken Pis was replaced by a little golden man. The switcheroo was made by Russian artist Petro Wodkins, who meant it as a joke. According to The Huffington Post, he was making light of how much Belgium has managed to capitalise on the little boy peeing into a fountain.

You do have to hand it to the Belgians, though, because they sure have gotten their money’s worth. Tourist shops sell all kinds of Manneken Pis-related artefacts, including t-shirts, postcards, chocolates and even bottle openers.

The many outfits of the Manneken Pis, postcard

Its rampant commercialisation aside, I think the Manneken Pis is pretty darn neat tourist attraction. Admittedly the joke gets pretty old after about five minutes trying to jostle for a photo amongst the hordes of tourists who congregate around the poor boy (it’s fortunate he isn’t shy).

It’s one of the reasons that I love Brussels. Sure it may seem all serious on the outside, but underneath this city is as crazy as anywhere else.

You might also enjoy this blog post about giant crab statues in Krabi and Man vs World’s 5 surprisingly awesome cities in Europe.

About Simon Petersen 288 Articles
Travel blogger, journalist, sports and movie fiend. Chronicling the life and times of a Kiwi at home and abroad.

1 Comment

  1. I remember seeing this little guy when I visited 20 years ago. I was amazed at how small he was. I did get my little souvenir though which was a corkscrew styled on him, of course the actual screw element coming out of him was symbolic of his urine. It still hasn’t put me off wine though 😉

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