The Manneken Pis is a small bronze statue of 55cm and a half which serves as a fountain. Despite its small size, it is one of the most famous monuments in Belgium and probably its symbol.
The Manneken Pis
What makes this fountain an original work is that it represents a little naked boy urinating in front of the public, the jet serving as a fountain. He has become the representative of Belgian impertinence, and also a source of endless amusement for generations of tourists.
In practice, "Manneken Pis" means "little boy who urinates", nothing original in there. It has a recent female counterpart, the Jeanneke-Pis, a statue of a little girl urinating - obviously - but it is very little known, alas.
The interest of Manneken Pis lies in its history that has passed through the centuries. Founded in 1619 by Jerome Duquesnoy the Elder on the forms of a statue dating from the 15th century, it has been exposed to public view for 4 centuries and serves as a symbol of recognition of the Belgians. The statue represents a little boy. It is chubby, with a nice boiled sympathetic whose face borders the adult attitude. He has a small double-chin. His hair, abundant, is very wavy and we guess blond, despite the fact that it is impossible to know how was the model that was used in its manufacture. He holds the sex by the left hand, the Manneken Pis seems to be left-handed.
On the statue itself there is not much more to say, except to highlight the quality of work in the establishment of the mold, the model is very successful. It is a bronze made by cast bronze cast in lost wax, a technique that consists of making a copy of the wax statue that is melted once in the mold. The Manneken Pis is hollow and weighs 17Kg.
The jet starts from a small metal hose fed from the rear, via another hose, alas visible. We would have liked that the feeding of the fountain is done by a more discreet means. The statue is placed on a small bronze base. Bronze is an alloy of copper and tin, a material that is often used even today for the molding of statues.
Of course, the beauty of the Manneken Pis is not just the statue, it's also the decor that surrounds it. This decor has changed several times since the creation of the fountain. Before the creation of this statue there already existed a similar statue, there is a trace in the local documentation from the middle of the fifteenth century. It was used to supply water to the city at a time when running water was not obvious. A pipe ran through the streets and passed at regular intervals by fountains, easy ways to recover water for the population. A statue of a naked child urinating was created and placed rue du Chêne. At that time she was on a column and her jet went into two large rectangular basins that we imagined to be kind of washhouses.
The basins were destroyed and rebuilt during the installation of the new statue, in 1620, a year after his command, then the column disappeared in 1770 to profile a rockery decor from another fountain destroyed. It is this scenery that we see today. It is made of a protective stele dug slightly from a cradle niche. The upper part is in the form of scallop shell, it is separated from the rest by a stone border. The scallop shell itself is decorated with some flowers. The protective wall houses a base with rounded shapes, decorated with stylized plant motifs as they were made in the late eighteenth century. The statue is placed on this base.
The set is placed in a corner and closed by a heavy grid. There are no special restrictions to see it, just go on the spot.
Often, the visitor is surprised to see that the Manneken Pis is dressed! It is rare, but it is quite normal, to dress this statue is a tradition that goes back to its creation. We can even say that the greatest kings of Europe have offered him outfits. Among them, the governor-general Maximilian of Bavaria (1695) or the king of France Louis XV (1747). But these outfits remained little used until the beginning of the twentieth century.
Between the two world wars, the movement of accumulation of outfits began to take place. At the beginning of the Second World War, the Manneken Pis had a few dozen outfits, and after the war he received more and more. Each year his wardrobe increases by several dozen clothes, and nowadays he has more than 1000!
Initially, these clothes were on display in the Brussels City Museum, but as it took up too much space, a new exhibition hall opened at 19 rue du Chêne, just a stone's throw from the statue. We see the main outfits he has, the most emblematic too, but not the entire collection, it would require too much space.
Here are some examples of outfits that the Manneken Pis wore a day. In order, below, he is in uniform of the Brotherhood of the Pink Elephant, Burgomaster of the Lignages of Brussels, of Santa Claus and in clothes of Bulgarian.
The Manneken Pis is the symbol of the city of Brussels, and more generally of Belgium. Indeed, if we were to keep only one monument per country, no doubt this little fountain would be the one chosen by the majority of Belgians to represent them.
But in a more traditional way it also represents a certain idea of independence, a turn of mind that leans toward impertinence and which finally represents quite well these people who were invaded most of the time of its history, but who, of nowadays, is the seat of Europe. Beautiful revenge that the Manneken Pis seems to symbolize in the sight of all that everyone is hidden ... An impertinence proper to the Belgians who care little about the events they undergo, knowing that in the end, they will always be where others will have disappeared.
Some also see it as a symbol of Belgian sense of humor. One can not blame them, there is in the fact of urinating in public some form of humor that the specialists of the Belgian people could admit.
The Manneken Pis therefore also symbolizes, and above all, the pride of the Belgians in the world around them.
The Manneken Pis is a statue that was designed in 1619 by Jerome Duquesnoy the Elder (1570-1641), then melted and set up in 1620. But it was replacing another much older identical statue, so we can consider that it enters the history during the first half of the fifteenth century since it has a trace in 1451 and 1452, in documents listing the fountains of the city. There is mention of a "Manneken Pis" on Oak, just before the crossroads of the rue de l'Etuve, roughly at its current location. It is placed at the top of a column about 1m20 high and its jet falls into two large rectangular basins. We know its interest since it is sanitary: During the Middle Ages running water existed only publicly, it was necessary to recover it in fountains made available to the population. The city was covered with canals bringing clear water from nearby rivers, but to get the water easily it needed fountains, hence the need to identify them. At that time she had an important utilitarian role.
As for its original form, it comes directly from the Middle Ages tradition of manipulating irreverence. The carnivals were there for that, moreover, but it was only the visible and excessive part of the irreverence, the truth was in the acts of the everyday life and it was very pregnant in the medieval society. This statue of a child urinating in front of the public entered these colorful representations.
From this 15th century statue, nothing remains to us. We know that she was in stone. It was redone identically in 1620 and bronze following an order from the previous year to replace the previous one. The city asked the Brussels sculptor Jerome Duquesnoy to redo it, which was done, set up in 1620. We know the cost of work: 50 florins Rhine. The running water only arrived in the houses from the late nineteenth century, its interest was identical to the previous fountain. For the installation we demolish the column and basins that are rebuilt in a similar way. But it seems that it is temporarily because in 1697 one finds the fountain with its current location, at the corner of the Rue du Chêne and the oven, a few meters farther than where it was.
In 1695 Governor-General Maximilian-Emmanuel of Bavaria offered the Manneken Pis an outfit. It was not the first time that it happened, but it was the first time that a high-ranking person was symbolically giving a coat to this statue. This can be interpreted as the fact that she obtained a status of representative of the local population, which will be confirmed later by adding clothes over the years. Besides, Louis XV offered a gentleman's dress. It was a political gesture, the king of France having tried to recover the statue for his benefit, he had attracted the wrath of the population and had to make this symbolic gesture to appease the spirits.
The shape of the fountain changes definitively in 1770, when it loses its two basins and its column for a protective stele in the shape of shell Saint Jacques. From the top of his new perch, the little boy urinates directly into a gutter, allowing the population to recover water, for example with buckets.
In 1817 the Manneken Pis was the subject of a flight followed by a serious degradation. He was stolen by a certain Antoine Licas who, during his flight, broke the statue into 11 pieces. Caught up, he was severely punished. The pieces were recovered and the statue could be restored thanks to the skill of the sculptor Gilles-Lambert Godecharle. The bronze base that we are currently seeing dates from this repair.
From the middle of the 19th century the current water begins to arrive in houses, buildings. The role of the fountains is not as important as before. The fountain is then protected by a heavy grid (in the middle of the 19th century), then a blue stone basin is built (at the end of the 19th century). The Manneken Pis had found there its final appearance.
But this is not the end of its history because if there was no longer any motivation for improvement or change of any kind since the late nineteenth century, it was stolen by many times! The last, in 1966, was too much. It was found quickly but broken at the ankles. The municipality had it repaired but instead of putting it back in place he had a copy made in his place. The original is now at the Museum of the City of Brussels, on the Grand Place. So the Manneken Pis presented to the public is only a copy of the original.
Going to Brussels
Impossible to go to Brussels without going to see the Manneken Pis, it would be like going to Paris without seeing the Eiffel Tower. And it is all the more indispensable as it is just a stone's throw from the Grand Place, a jewel of Brussels architecture. The visit of one does not go without the other.
It must also be said that the capital does not shine by the number of its monuments. Its strong point is undeniably its architecture and quality museums, but it is not in Brussels that we will find the most monuments to admire. Of course, this does not mean that the city is uninteresting, on the contrary: The gastronomy, the warmth of the inhabitants, the way of life - far more distant from the way of life of its neighbors than one might think unique city where it is good to walk.
Free, simply. The Manneken Pis is on the public road, there is no restriction to approach it, and nobody will ever make you pay to see it ... unless you buy the services of a guide, but in this case it is him that you pay, not the vision of the statue.
Nationals from an EU member state do not need documents to travel to Brussels. However since the attacks of 2015 it is better to have his identity card up to date, even his passport if it has not expired for more than 5 years.
When to go ?
As often as visiting spring is a good season, it is mild and it is not yet the affluence of summer. In summer the heat is not too strong, it is rather in the North of Europe. But even in winter, the city will provide its charm to visitors. Brussels is a city that can be visited all year round.
As the capital of Belgium the accommodation offer is plethoric. There is a slight drop in prices in winter, when there are fewer visitors, and in the middle of summer, when European officials leave the city for holidays.
How to reach the statue
On foot, undeniably, and only on foot. It is at the corner of a pedestrian street and another one-way, with parking spaces along the sidewalks. Finding a place there is a miracle, and anyway traffic in Brussels sometimes turns hellish, especially along the highways and other highways that lead to it. No, taking the car to visit the city center is not a good idea, except to park it in a perimeter car park and get there by public transport.
To choose, always prefer to come by public transport and stay in the city is more expensive but apart from the fact that it is more enjoyable, you will make significant savings in parking.
What to see nearby ?
The Grand Place of Brussels
The Grande-Place of course! It is famous for being one of the most beautiful places in the world. Its main feature is the wealth of buildings that border it. Apart from the town hall and the king's house, which are opposite each other (the town hall to the south, the king's house to the north), one discovers the different houses of the guilds, heirs of the ancestral traditions of the city. It is also a high-rise in the history of Belgium.
The facades that surround it are typical. They usually have a pediment and large windows that open the interior of the building on the square, the windows being separated only by thin columns and - sometimes - small balconies or even simple railings. The upper parts of the facades, where the pediments are, are all beautiful.
At 19 rue du Chêne is a showroom showing the different clothes that the Manneken Pis can take. Everything is not exposed of course, since it has more than 1000 outfits, but you will see the main ones.
The comic book museum is quite original, but especially typical of Belgium. Indeed, this art finds a large part of its authors in this country, and to mention only them, Hergé (Tintin), Peyo (The Smurfs), Franquin (Spirou, Gaston Lagaffe) were Belgian. This museum presents the various stages of the creation of a comic book and focuses on the techniques used. You will also see your favorite characters in full size! This museum will serve as a starting point for visiting the murals of the city, on the theme of comics, also a real curiosity of the city.
Otherwise Brussels offers brewery tours, a real institution in this city that has been able to highlight the Belgian flagship drink: beer. Several breweries offer tours of their premises, with explanations and tours.
Finally we can not be silent about the various art museums of the city: The MIMA or museum of urban cultures, the Museum of Fine Arts, the Magritte Museum, the famous painter has its museum here because he lived 25 years in Brussels. We see different works he has painted, often from everyday objects.
To sum up
Le Manneken Pis est une statue de Bruxelles qui représente un jeune garçon nu en train d'uriner, face au public. Il est le symbole de la Belgique de par le fait que le peuple belge s'est unifié à plusieurs reprises pour le conserver sur place, malgré les attaques dont il faisait l'objet. Il symbolise aussi l'impertinence des belges et – parfois – l'humour belge.
C'est une statue en bronze, creuse, de 55,5cm de haut pour 17Kg. Un jet d'eau symbolisant l'urine le transforme en fontaine. Il est visible de tous à l'angle des rues du Chêne et de l'Etuve, à 150m à peu près de la Grand-Place de Bruxelles. Elle est protégée par une structure en pierre datant de 1770 joliment décorée qui embellit la statue et par une grille de protection sur sa face avant.
Elle a été commandée en 1619 par la ville de Bruxelles pour remplacer une autre statue du XVe siècle, en pierre celle-là, qui avait probablement disparu. Elle fut faite par Jérôme Duquesnoy l'Ancien en 1620 et installé à deux pas de son emplacement actuel sur une colonne, en tant que fontaine publique. Déplacée en 1770, elle trône depuis dans ce même lieu. Elle fut volée à plusieurs reprises et dégradées deux fois. La première, en 1817, imposa une complète restauration. La seconde, en 1965, nécessita le recollage des jambes. Depuis 1966 elle est au musée de la ville de Bruxelles, dans la maison du roi (sur la Grand-place). La statue que l'on peut voir rue du Chêne est une copie.
The Manneken Pis is located in Brussels, at the corner of the streets of the oven and oak. This is where the Rue des Grands Carmes ends. This intersection is located in the center of the capital of Belgium.
These are busy and commercial streets, one of which is pedestrian. To get there, it's best to take the Grand-Place de Bruxelles as a starting point, it's the center of the city and a must-see for any visit to this city.
From there, you have to take the street Charles Buls on about fifty meters, it leads to the street of the oven which one must then follow on 150m only, one arrives at this small crossroads. The Manneken Pis is on your left. Impossible to miss, except in the middle of the night, there is always a crowd of walkers who stops in front.
The rue de l'Etuve is pedestrian, you can walk there safely, but be careful because once in front of the statue you will also be rue du Chêne, which is rolling, it. Do not stay in the middle of the road ...
The Manneken Pis that we see at the corner of the streets of the Oak and the oven is a fake! It is a copy of the original work, put in place to avoid damage that could be suffered, being very exposed to the crowd at any time of the day. The original statue is in the Museum of the City of Brussels, in the King's House, located on the north side of the Grand Place, just a few steps away. The replacement took place in 1965.
He is regularly dressed in various outfits. That too is a fact. Sometimes visitors are surprised to discover the Manneken Pis dressed, but it is normal, it is an ancestral tradition that it wears, some days, clothes corresponding to a particular occasion ... or not.
There is a copy of the Manneken Pis in Grammont, a Belgian town located in the Flemish part of the country. It is also a source of quarrel to know which city has the original model, because the dates do not learn that the statue of Brussels dates from 1619, but that there was a Manneken Pis in Brussels in 1452, a statue now gone. But that of Grammont dates from 1459, so we can say that the statue of Grammont is older than that of Brussels, but that the original statue comes from Brussels.
It seems that in 1890 the Manneken Pis urinated wine and beer! This phenomenon is not miraculous, it was just an originality that took place during a party in Brussels. But if this idea has never been repeated later, there are many gadgets to fix a small replica of the statue at the top of a bottle and run the liquid it contains that the boy does !
The Manneken Pis is left-handed! This is at least logic, since it holds its sex by this hand. This fact is probably not insignificant because, at the beginning of the seventeenth century, what came out of the norm was considered negative, a state of affairs inherited from the Middle Ages. Since the majority of the population is right-handed, being left-handed was, at first, suspect. Making the Manneken Pis left-handed reinforces the idea that it represents something other than the norm, the simplistic and ready-made idea. The Manneken Pis is the difference, the originality, the desire to shake the established order in the form of a street kid.
The nickname of "little Julien" that Brussels sometimes gives Manneken Pis is due to a confusion between it and another statue of the fourteenth century, since disappeared, and that was called "the fountain of the little Julien".
The bronze base is marked with the following signs: "1620 - REST 1817". It refers to its date of manufacture (1620) and its date of restoration (1817). It had to be restored because a thief, who had grabbed it, had broken it into 11 pieces. Restored, she was able to stay there until 1966, when she was transferred to the museum.
There is an order of the friends of Manneken Pis. This order, created in 1954 and revised in its present form in 1985, ensures the cultural and touristic flourishing of Belgium through the traditions related to Manneken Pis. Members of the order, severely selected, create events of dress discount or birthday celebrations.
It is surprising, but the Manneken Pis holds many titles and distinctions. They were given to him over time, by the speakers of the story.
General Maximilian of Bavaria decorated him with his orders. Louis XV conferred on him the Cross of St. Louis and gave him the honor of wearing the sword. He offered him a gentleman's dress for this occasion, and obliged the soldiers to render him respect by making him salute, as if he were a superior officer. In 1789 he received the cockade of Brabant. Napoleon, Emperor of the French, gave him the title of "Chamberlain", a title of servant of the king's chamber or a prince.
More curiously, the Manneken Pis was the holder of donations and legacies. We find a trace of a lady from Brussels who bequeathed him 1000 guilder per will. At the end of the nineteenth century, a person was responsible for taking care of it, bathing it, dressing it on occasions. This valet received the sum of 200 florins for this task.
The Manneken Pis is not a UNESCO World Heritage Site, but it has been protected under Belgian institutions since it is on the list of "classified properties" since 1975.
In Belgium, a "classified property" is a protected monument, it is a mechanism similar to historical monuments in France.
Dimensions, weight and cost
This is where the surprise of Manneken Pis is, because most people discovering it for the first time make the same reflection: "Oh he is small!"
And yes, this statue measures only 55.5 cm, not even two A4 sheets placed one above the other. It seems even larger because it is placed at the top of a stone structure, the set sheltered behind a set of protection whose top is shaped like a scallop shell. As the bottom of the wall is simple, the statue stands out well.
Its weight of 17 Kg, which is light enough for bronze. It must be said that it is hollow.
The Manneken Pis cost at the time the sum of 50 florins of the Rhine. The florin was the monetary unit of Europe from the thirteenth to the fifteenth century. It was replaced by national currencies at the time of the creation of nations. The Netherlands used the guilder as the national currency until the appearance of the euro. More specifically, the Rhine florin or Rhine florin was in use mainly in Northern Europe.