Mar 12, 2009


''Manneken Pis(Dutch)
Petit Julien (French)
Jerome Duquesnoy, 1388: original version
1619: current version
Bronze, height 61 cm

Manneken Pis (Dutch for little pee man), also known in French as the petit Julien, is a very famous Brussels landmark. It is a small bronze fountain sculpture depicting a naked little boy urinating into the fountain's basin.

On many occasions, the statue is dressed in a costume. His wardrobe now consists of several hundred different costumes. The costumes are changed according to a schedule managed by the non-profit association The Friends of Manneken-Pis, in ceremonies that are often accompanied by brass band music.

On occasion, the statue is hooked up to a keg of beer. Cups will be filled up with the beer flowing from the statue and given out to people passing by.

The famous statue is located at the junction of Rue de l'Étuve & Eikstraat. One has to take the left lane next to the Brussels Town Hall building from the famous Grote Markt and walk up a few hundred meters to arrive at the spot. The statue will be on the left corner.

There are several legends behind this statue, but the most famous is the one about Duke Godfrey III of Leuven. In 1142, the troops of this two-year-old lord were battling against the troops of the Berthouts, the lords of Grimbergen, in Ransbeke (now Neder-over-Heembeek). The troops put the infant lord in a basket and hung it in a tree, to encourage them. From there, he urinated on the troops of the Berthouts, who eventually lost the battle.

Another legend goes like this: In the 14th century, Brussels was under siege by a foreign power. The city had held their ground for quite some time. The attackers had thought of a plan to place explosive charges at the city walls. A little boy named Juliaanske from Brussels happened to be spying on them as they were preparing. He urinated on the burning fuse and thus saved the city.

There was already a similar statue made of stone in the middle of the 15th century, perhaps as early as 1388. The statue was stolen several times. In 1619 it was replaced by a bronze statue, created by Franco-Flemish Baroque sculptor Jerome Duquesnoy, father of the more famous François.

Another story (told often to tourists) tells of a wealthy merchant who, during a visit to the city with his family, had his beloved young son go missing. The merchant hastily started searching with others all corners of the city, until one member of the search party found the boy happily urinating in a small garden. The merchant, as a gift of gratitude to the locals who helped out during the search, had the fountain built.

Another legend was that a small boy went missing from his mother when shopping in the center of the city. The woman, panic-stricken by the loss of her child, called upon everyone she came across, including the mayor of the city. A city-wide search began to find this small child and when at last he was found, he was peeing on the corner of a small street. The story had passed down over time and the statue erected as tribute to the well known fable.