All big cities have their great monuments: Paris has the Eiffel tower, New York has the statue of Liberty, Rome has the Coliseum and Brussels has… the Manneken Pis! Despite its very small size, this statue is one of the main attractions of the city and the people of Brussels are really proud of it.
In the local dialect, Manneken Pis means ‘Little peeing man’: no need to explain why the statue was given this name! While most cities take pride in their grandiose monuments or sculptures, the fact that the people of Brussels have so much affection for their ‘Manneken Pis’ shows a very Belgian feature: we don’t take ourselves too seriously!
Nobody really knows when the original statue was made nor if it had any particular meaning. However, references to him can be found as early as the 15th century. The official origin can be traced back to the 13th of August 1619 when the city ordered the sculptor Jerome Duquesnoy to make a new bronze statue of manneken-pis to replace an old and withered one.
There are several stories about the Manneken Pis: one says that it celebrates a young boy who saved the city by urinating on the explosives that were supposed to be used to bomb the city. Another one says that a rich merchant once lost his son and only found him two days later, peeing on the street; the man was so happy to get his son back that he had a statue of him built at the exact spot he was found.
The Manneken Pis has a lot of different outfits that he wears according to circumstances. There are more than 600 of them and they’re all to be seen in the King’s House, or City Museum at the Grand-Place. His first costume dates back to 1698 and was a gift of the governor of the Austrian Netherlands.
If you ever go to Brussels make sure to pay a visit to the little peeing man: he sure will appreciate it!