Fons Sapientiae – Leuven, Belgium - Atlas Obscura

Fons Sapientiae

This whimsical statue dumps water on its head to symbolize knowledge flowing into his brain. Or maybe booze. 


A mind tangled in the tales of a book is apt to do many odd things. For the man in this statue, that means carelessly dumping a steady stream of water atop his head. 

Fons Sapientiae, nicknamed “Fonske,” is a well-loved resident of Leuven. The whimsical statue is an ode to the city’s rich student life. The name translates to “Source of Wisdom,” and the water the man pours atop his head is supposedly meant to symbolize knowledge flowing into his brain. An intricate math formula is scrawled across the front cover of the book he clutches that, when solved, forms the Dutch word for “happiness.”

Some students, however, interpreted the statue in a more lighthearted way. Instead of knowledge, they imagined booze sloshing from the tipped cup; a nod to the notorious drinking culture that surrounds most universities (and perhaps to the many breweries that call the city home). They continually add their own fun, flashy additions to their beloved Fonske by dressing it up in various costumes throughout the year.

Fonske, which was given to the city in 1975 in honor of the 550th anniversary of university KU Leuven, has become Leuven’s version of Brussels’ famous Manneken Pis. The two frequently costumed statues are sometimes even seen as rivals, stuck in an unending sage of “who wore it best.”

Know Before You Go

The sculpture is situated in the heart of the city of Leuven. It's about 25 miles from Brussels. Leuven is also linked to the Zaventem airport by bus and train.

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