Friday, June 3, 2011

The Many Constumes of Manneken Pis

At the corner of Rue de l'Étuve/Stoofstraat and Rue du Chêne/Eikstraat in the heart of Brussels, is a famous landmark – the Manneken Pis. It is a small bronze statue of a naked little boy urinating into the fountain's basin. Although there are many similar and sculptures all around the world, thousands of tourists flock each day to take a photo of this particular one.

Part of the reason why people visit this little figure so frequently is its enormous wardrobe of costumes. The statue is dressed in tiny costume several times each week, according to a published schedule which is posted on the railings around the fountain. His wardrobe consists of several hundred different costumes, many of which may be viewed in a permanent exhibition inside the City Museum. A non-profit association called The Friends of Manneken-Pis manages and selects costumes from among hundreds of designs submitted each year.

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Although the proliferation of costumes is of twentieth-century origin, the occasional use of costumes dates back almost to the date of casting, the oldest costume on display in the City Museum being of seventeenth-century origin. The changing of the costume on the figure is a colourful ceremony, often accompanied by brass band music. Many costumes represent the national dress of nations whose citizens come to Brussels as tourists; others are the uniforms of assorted trades, professions, associations, and branches of the civil and military services.

There are several legends behind this statue, but the most famous is the one about Duke Godfrey III of Leuven. In 1142, the troops of this two-year-old lord were battling against the troops of the Berthouts, the lords of Grimbergen. The troops put the infant lord in a basket and hung the basket in a tree to encourage them. According to legend, Baby Godfrey urinated on the troops of the Berthouts, who eventually lost the battle.

Another legend states that in the 14th century, Brussels was under siege by a foreign power, who tried to blow up the city walls by placing explosive charges. A little boy named Julianske happened to be spying on them as they were preparing. When the attackers left, he urinated on the burning fuse and thus saved the city.

Another story (told often to tourists) tells of a wealthy merchant who, during a visit to the city with his family, had his beloved young son go missing. The merchant hastily formed a search party that scoured all corners of the city until the boy was found happily urinating in a small garden. The merchant, as a gift of gratitude to the locals who helped out during the search, had the fountain built.

The current bronze sculpture is work of Jerome Duquesnoy. However, there was a similar stone sculpture dating back to the middle of the 15th century, perhaps as early as 1388. The statue was stolen several times and finally lost. It was replaced by the current bronze statue in 1619.

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Manneken Pis statue is dressed as an African farmer and 'urinates' milk. The stunt was organised by Veterinary without Borders to draw attention to the fact that milk is a major source of nutrition in Africa. The NGO hopes to improve the living conditions of African farmers and their livestock.

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Manneken Pis dons a special Hungarian hussar costume to celebrate Hungary's six-month presidency of the European Union

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Celebrating the 250th birthday of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart in 2006

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Manneken Pis is dressed as a soldier by Amnesty International to draw attention to child soldiers in 2004

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Manneken Pis wearing a Russian cosmonaut suit donated by the members of an International Space mission

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Manneken Pis on Christmas eve

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Manneken Pis as a US Air Force Cadet

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Manneken Pis in Judo attire.

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Manneken Pis dressed like an Organ Builder

1 comment:

  1. That is flippin' hilarious. I live only 4 hours from Brussels, and I will DEFINITELY be going to see the Manneken Pis, now!

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