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Manneken Pis

Manneken Pis is the symbol of Brussels, embodying the calm temperament and spirit of resistance of the people of Brussels. Legend would have it that the little boy it is modelled on saved Brussels from disaster.
Little as he is – 58 cm, or less than 22 inches – Manneken Pis has been transformed from a fountain statuette to the symbol of the city, famous around the globe. An embodiment of the calm temperament and spirit of resistance of the people of Brussels.

Manneken Pis (on the corner of Rue de l'Étuve and Rue du Chêne) is felt to be Brussels’s oldest citizen. The archives of Saints-Michel-et-Gudule Cathedral show that he served as a public fountain as early as 1388. Back then, he was in stone – the bronze statue we know today was installed in 1619.

The legend of Manneken Pis

There is in fact more than one legend about Manneken Pis, who was once also known as "Petit Julien".

  • The most famous legend claims that the statuette depicts a young boy who saved Brussels from disaster. The enemy was at the gates ready to bring down the city walls with gunpowder. Fortunately, a little boy who happened to be around desperately needed to relieve himself and in doing so he extinguished the fuse.
  • An alternative legend has it that a little boy emptied his bladder against a witch’s door. The furious hag made to cast an instant hex, damning the kid to stay in that compromising stance till the end of time. A brave bystander who had witnessed the whole scene quickly replaced the boy with a statue to foil the evil crone. The statue has continued what the little boy started ever since.

Special occasions are a great excuse to dress up…

An image of Manneken PisManneken Pis sometimes sports a special costume, such as on the day celebrating the freedom of the press, when he is dressed as a reporter.

This tradition goes back to 1698, when Maximilian II Emmanuel, Governor of the Spanish Netherlands, gave him his first set of clothes. In 1747 he received a garb of brocade from King Louis XV. Manneken Pis has regularly been given new outfits ever since and now has over 800 outfits to his name. You can admire them at the Museum of the City of Brussels in the Breadhouse on Grand-Place.

Manneken Pis even urinates beer or wine to mark some very special occasions.

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