Manneken-Pis: The Real Story

We have all heard of the many legends told for the iconic statue of Manneken-Pis. From the young boy saving the king’s castle from burning down with his urine, to him urinating on the troops of the Berthouts in 1142 which led to their defeat at the battle.


For many years, Manneken-Pis has been depicted as a symbol of bravery, luck and folklore in Belgian history, but is there more to it?

What most people don’t know, is that during the Middle Ages there were several tanners on the Rue de l’Étuv in Brussels. Allowing children to urinate on leather was quite common back then, since the ammonia constituent in urine helped in making the leather more agile.

“Ammonia in water acts as acaustic but weak base. Its high pH breaks down organic material, making urine theperfect substancefor ancients to use in softening and tanning animal hides. Soaking animal skins in urine also made it easier for leather workers to remove hair and bits of flesh from the skin” - Smithsonian Magazine

Mannekin-Pis was basically built as a homage to the tanners, as urine was considered valuable, and surprisingly expensive.

But wait, there is more.. A Mannekin-Twist.

Did you know that as of today, the statue is connected to the internet?

Thanks to the Brussels-based tech startup, Shayp, the fountain is currently being equipped with a water monitoring technology that automatically detects abnormal water flows and leaks.