What is the Manneken Pis?
It is the most recognizable and curious national symbol in the world! The Manneken Pis is a statue of a young naked boy peeing into a fountain. It’s located in the heart of Brussels, Belgium, and characterizes the zany zwanze or sense of humor of the Belgian people.
The first Manneken Pis dates back to around 1450. It was replaced with a bronze replica in 1620. The bronze statue is now preserved in the City of Brussels Museum. The current statue was installed in 1965.
While the statue is universally beloved by the Belgian people who view it as a symbol of proud defiance, there is not complete agreement about the origin of Mannken Pis. The three most popular legends are:
THE LEGEND OF THE EPIC HERO:
Brussels was under attack from the Netherlands. For several days Dutch forces besieged the city and the Belgians resisted courageously. The Dutch realized victory would not come easily and decided to withdraw their troops. They stashed a load of gunpowder under the city, and lit the fuse, just before they retreated. A resourceful little boy saw the burning fuse, and thinking quickly, he peed on it to put it out and thus saved the town of Brussels from being blown up! The grateful residents of Brussels honored their young hero with a statue to commemorate his good deed!
Benjamin, the Belgian student who visited The Belgian Monk in December 2019 told us this version of the story.
THE LEGEND OF THE LOST BOY:
In this popular story, a wealthy merchant’s child got lost in the crowd. His father rounded up a search party and they all searched frantically for him in the Brussels streets. The child finally was found innocently peeing in a garden at the corner of Rue de l’Etuve and Rue du Chêne. The merchant was so happy to find his precious son, he decided to erect a statue in that very spot to immortalize the moment of relief.
THE LEGEND OF THE BABY DUKE:
This story identifies Manneken Pis as Duke Godfrey III of Leuven. When he was a baby, he was put in a basket and hung in an oak tree to inspire the knights fighting in his honor. Every now and then the precocious toddler stood up and peed on the heads of the enemy. And his contribution was immortalized in a statue.
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