The Manneken Pis
and Brussels Folklore

Just one block down from the Grand Palace of Brussels is the Manneken Pis Fountain. The name Manneken Pis has the literal meaning of “little man piss” in English. Since 1142 when it was originally constructed, the fountain has become a notable landmark in Brussels.

The fountain depicts a small statue of a little boy peeing. He is seen as standing and smiling high above the fountain’s basin where he is peeing into.

The Manneken Pis is made entirely of bronze. Often, visitors are surprised to see the fountain’s small size. It is also important to note how a misinformed tourist can easily overlook the fountain.

As strange as it may seem, urinating sculptures are considered a common theme in fountains all over Europe. Similar statues can be found in Geraardsbergen and Hasselt.

There are a number of stories and folklore that surround the Manneken Pis. The most famous one happened in the late 1300s. During this period, Brussels was under brutal attack by a foreign power. The Belgium troops were strong and had successfully held their ground for several days. Their attackers had planned to place explosives in the city walls. However, they were not aware that a small boy named Juliannske was watching them. As the attackers ran after lighting up the explosives, little Juliannske peed on the fuses to prevent them from exploding. The city hailed him as a hero and decided to memorialize him in the Manneken Pis Fountain. Since then, Juliannske has remained a vital part of Brussels’ folklore.

The original Manneken Pis of 1388 was later on replaced in 1619 with a similar bronze sculpture that was based on the designs by Francois Duquesnoy. While it may be difficult to believe, the fountain has been used in past events to dispense alcohol instead of water. Oftentimes, the fountain is clothed and at present, its wardrobe is filled with hundreds of costumes. In the meantime, there is a museum just down the street from the Manneken Pis which displays more than 500 of these costumes as well as relevant memorabilia items.

The Manneken Pis is regarded as Brussels’ oldest and favorite citizen. Visitors would never fail to take a quick peek of the fountain before leaving the city. The fountain has been reproduced in a variety of miniature forms such as postcards, cork screws, souvenir statues and even book ends. Without a doubt, the Manneken Pis and his sibling fountain, the Jeanneke Pis, are unique destinations on any tour of Brussels and should never be missed!