All roads in Brussels lead to the Manneken Pis. Manneken Pis meaning ‘little man pee’.
Well, that’s not strictly true (the all roads lead to part), but you’ll be hard pressed to find a street within the city centre that doesn’t pay some kind of homage to this somewhat unusual emblem of the Belgian capital. The statue of a little boy peeing, AKA the Manneken Pis, is everywhere, and people really seem to dig it!
Being British and therefore a bit reserved/prudish, I do wonder how a little boy peeing came to be a symbol of a great European capital, the capital of Europe some might say. Again, being British I don’t readily talk about bodily functions such as peeing, well not on a normal day at least.
The little bronze fountain can be found just metres away from the Grand-Place, on rue de l’Etuve. He plays a full part in the city’s annual calendar and even has an outfit for every occasion. Manneken Pis’ wardrobe ranges from Santa suits to national costumes from countries around the world. Made in 1619 by Brussels sculptor Hieronimus Duquesnoy.
The Legend(s) of the Manneken Pis
OK so the Manneken Pis was created in 1619, but why? What does it symbolise?
Well, there are a few different theories as to why a small bot taking a leak was immortalised in bronze, lets run through a few of my favourites now shall we?
#1 – The Wraith of a Wizard
A little boy is busting and can’t hold it any longer. He ends up peeing up against the door of an old man who, upon catching the boy, turns him into a statue and therefore condemning him to carrying on the act forever…
#2 – Fire Fighting
Brussels in under siege and all hope looks lost. The Besiegers set fire to burn the city to the ground. Fortunately a wee lad saw said fires, and in the absence of water, goes for a wee and extinguishes the burning wick. The Bourgeois caught wind of this heroic act and erected a statue honouring the little lad.
#3 – Lost in the crowd
A Bourgeois child and his father become separated when out in Brussels one day. The father searches furiously for his son, and after days (5 days tells the story) of seaching, finally he spots his little man taking a wiz at the corner of rue de l’Etuve and rue du Chêne. So happy was the Bourgeois father that he decided to erect a statue to immortalize the moment.
#4 – A Victory Pee (the most likely)
This theory is the most plausible one, based on historical facts. In 1142, Godefroid III entered into this world. Godefriod was born a duke from Lotharingie, but sadly his father, Godefroid II, passed away soon after his birth.
At 2 years old the tiny Duke went to battle and his crib was hung from a oak tree’s branch, in Ransbeek. The little lords army were on the verge of defeat, having been driven back by the enemy. However it was at this point that the little lord suddenly galvanized his troops. Whilst watching the baby peacefully doing the famous act, and this was taken to mean that the little was peeing over the enemy. Victory ensued and to commemorate, a fountain was erected in Brussels, and it was called Manneken-Pis. Moreover, the oak tree was uprooted and replanted at the Rue du Chêne (meaning oak in French).
Other peeing statues
Yeah anyway, Brussels is kinda obsessed with a little man going number 1, like REALLY obsessed.
So obsessed (not of it is for tourists I’m sure) in fact that other there are now many many shop and product logos in town which have adopted the Makaean Pis, there are also 2 other peeing statues a little girl and a dog, and last but by no means least, a peeing space invader.
Now I’m not entirely sure what to make of all this, in fact I’m struggling with writing this post as I’m not quite sure what point I’m trying to make. Normally I wouldn’t go out of my way to visit a peeing statue, but as luck would have it, I genuinely found the all 3 peeing statues without actually looking for them, so here they all are. Whether you want to go looking for them yourself is up to you, but they do appear to be seriously popular.
Where is the Manneken Pis?