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MANNEKEN PIS

New York has the Statue of Liberty, Copenhagen has the mermaid and Brussels has the ...... Manneken Pis. This statue of a little boy in a somewhat compromising position has since several centuries been a major tourist attraction in the city. When most people see our 'manneken', the first reaction is always one of amazement: "Look, how small he is ! Why does everybody want to see him ?" The people of Brussels, however, accept him the way he is. After all, it doesn't always have to be big to be beautiful. Imagine he would be the size of the Statue of Liberty : Brussels would be continuously flooded ! 

Nobody actually knows why the manneken is there. He is believed to be nothing more than a decoration on top of a fountain, where people in the Middle-Ages came to get fresh water. Already in the 15th century a fountain called 'manneken-pis' existed in the Stoofstraat/Rue de l'étuve. 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. During the course of the centuries our little manneken has often been hidden to protect him against bombs of invading armies. He has also been stolen several times by plundering soldiers and even by the citizens of Geraardsbergen, a city in Flanders that claims to possess the oldest statue of a peeing boy in Belgium.

Father PismasA lot of people do not know that the manneken-pis is very often dressed. At the moment he has a wardrobe of more than 600 costumes, which are all preserved in the King's House, or City Museum at the Grand-Place, the central market square of the city. He received his first costume on May the 1st 1698. The governor of the Austrian Netherlands gave the costume on the occasion of festivities organized by one of the guilds of Brussels. Many more costumes where to follow. Even nowadays he still receives new gear when folklorist groups visit Brussels. To thank them for the gift, the manneken offers the people of such groups beer which comes directly from a beer barrel attached to the statue. Among the more special costumes are for instance : an Elvis Presley outfit and a Mickey Mouse costume.

There are many legends about the Manneken. According to one of them a little boy had watered against the door of a witch who lived where the fountain now stands. The witch was so angry that she turned the little boy into a statue.

Manneken PisAnother legend says that a man had lost his little son. He found the child after two days near the place where now the fountain of manneken-pis can be seen. When the father spotted his child, the latter was peeing. As a token of gratitude the father had the fountain with a statue of a peeing boy constructed.

If the sight of manneken-pis inspires you to new legends, don't hesitate to contact the city authorities!

Location
On the corner of Stoofstraat/Rue de L'Etuve and the Eikstraat/Rue du Chêne (At the Grand-Place follow the street on the left side of the town hall)

 

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