Do you dream of knowing everything there is to know about the Manneken-Pis, the wonderful sculpture of a little boy that became the symbol of Brussels? Finally, all the secrets of the city's most famous son will be revealed!
Located in the heart of Brussels, this monument personifies the sense of humour of the people of Brussels. As you walk through the streets of the centre of the city, you will come across this character who, in reality, must be one of the most photographed fountains in the world!
While most just stop by to say hello, there is actually a lot more to learn about the incredible adventures of this young man from Brussels. Discover the hardships he has faced, his other bronze friends and his penchant for fashion. But first of all, do you know why this child was made a hero? There are many legends about the origin of the Manneken-Pis, but the most common one tells the story of a young child who lived near rue de l'Etuve.
The legend of Manneken-Pis
Explanation: Legend has it that Brussels had been resisting a siege for several days. The invaders, unable to penetrate the city walls, decided to set fire to them.
Enter our little hero, who had the unfortunate habit of getting up in the night to answer the call of nature. He came out of his house and saw the glow of the fuse that had been lit by the invaders who were trying to set fire to the city. With no water nearby, he had no choice but to urinate on it to extinguish it and save the city from the flames!
This charming anecdote quickly spread through the city's neighbourhoods and, in his honour, the bourgeoisie erected a statuette recounting his heroic gesture.
The stories are enchanting, but time now for some proven historical facts. Other statues have been named Manneken-Pis before, but it was indeed Jerome Duquesnoy who, in 1619, made the real bronze statue in the style of Cupid that everyone knows today. The statue itself recently celebrated its 400th anniversary! To admire the original sculpture, you'll have to visit the Museum of the City of Brussels, which is housed in the Maison du Roi. This splendid building on the iconic Grand-Place is where this child, who became the most famous boy in Belgium, has now taken up residence. He has become an unmissable attraction thanks to his adorable and sometimes hilarious outfits!
An extensive wardrobe
Manneken-Pis can consider himself very lucky. He is probably the child with the biggest wardrobe in the world!
According to legend, his passion for clothes began in 1615. In a painting by Denis van Alsloot, Manneken-Pis was depicted for the first time during the Ommegang, dressed as a shepherd. Soon less austere robes followed, notable examples being a costume donated in 1698 by Duke Maximilian Emanuel in Bavaria and a knight's costume donated by the king of France in 1747, which has been preserved and can still be admired today. In the years that followed, the dressing up of Manneken-Pis became a popular tradition.
Today, Nicolas, his personal dresser, can choose from among the 1,000 pieces that make up his collection currently on display at the Garderobe Manneken-Pis on rue du Chêne.
Good to know: You can visit Manneken-Pis' wardrobe with your ticket for the City of Brussels Museum.
400 years of trials and tribulations
Manneken-Pis has lived through many eras and had plenty of adventures. Like many works exhibited in the open air, he is faced with several issues and problems of degradation. The statue has been stolen or damaged several times.
Abducted several times, the first by soldiers, the second by a convicted criminal, this young boy was fortunately found, but in a pitiful state. Over the years he has also been amputated and vandalised, but it takes more than that to defeat our tough little hero!
All these misadventures nevertheless led those responsible for his safety to make a painful decision. For his own good, the bronze statue was sent to the Maison du Roi. Since then, a reproduction has been proudly enthroned in his place at the fountain. If you want to immortalise Manneken-Pis, the real Manneken-Pis, you need to visit the City of Brussels Museum!
Manneken-Pis’ bronze friends
Manneken-Pis also has other little friends who look like him and emulate his lack of modesty! His sister, Jeanneke-Pis is also immortalised in bronze and decorates another fountain in the centre of Brussels. Commissioned by Denis-Adrien Debouvrie to re-establish "equality between men and women", it was officially presented to the public in 1987. At 50 cm tall, this smiling little girl can be found at Impasse de la Fidélité and is another of Brussels' unmissable curiosities!
After getting a little sister, Manneken-Pis then decided he needed a pet! Tom Frantzen created him a faithful four-legged bronze companion, who replicates his young master's bad manners. “Het Zinneke” (more commonly known as Zinneke-Pis), has been wandering the streets of the capital since 1999 and brings a smile to the face of every passer-by who has the good fortune to come across this cute little puppy.
A little anecdote: In 2015, while on one of his regular wanderings, he was hit by a car, owing to his small size and slight lack of attention. He was soon restored to his position on the pavement of the rue des Chartreux with a new look, after just a short period of convalescence. Just like his human counterparts, he is a unique attraction that is well worth the visit during your time in Brussels.