During a trip to Rome, the city of history and culture, visitors see a variety of churches, public buildings, museums, fountains, galleries, and architectural remains from different periods. All are beautiful and impressive. Inside the church of Santa Maria in Cosmedin, is placed a large mask made of marble, which is famous throughout the world. The fantastic performance is called Mouth of Truth – Boca Della Verita (the Mouth of Truth). This is because, according to the well-known myth, the mask would “bite” the hands of those who lied—a polygraph device of the olden days.
The Boca della Verita is a marble sculpture shaped like a perfect circle, weighing more than a ton and standing 175 cm tall. It was built in the 8th century and placed in its current location sometime in the 17th century. It is a mask in the image of the god since instead of eyes, nose, and mouth, large holes are carved in the stone. Many historians and archaeologists claim that the statue was used as a beautiful water fountain during the medieval period in Rome.
A famous legend holds that a husband who suspected his wife of cheating many years ago took her to the statue to test her reliability. The woman reacted to the incident by feigning fainting and falling into the husband’s arms. When she regained consciousness, the woman swore before the mask that these hands of her husband were the only ones that had ever held her. This is one of the many stories that have been told about the intriguing statue that has existed and attracted many pilgrims. Today, many tourists come to put their hand into the statue’s mouth, with some trepidation, to examine the matter for themselves.
In the fifties of the last century, the famous statue appeared in one of the scenes of a well-known movie called Roman Holiday. The film starred the famous actors Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck, both of whom came for a tour of the city and visited the seat of the statue in question. Like good tourists, they try their luck and put their hand inside the statue’s mouth. Hepburn comes out clean, but when Peck puts his hand in, he screams and pulls her out. Hepburn screams in terror until Peck reveals the prank and takes his hidden hand out of his sleeve. This performance made the statue particularly popular in the world and placed the church where it is housed on the city’s tourism map.
Besides appearing in Hollywood motion pictures, Boca della Verita was a source of inspiration for works of art worldwide. For example, you can find a similar statue in the Luxembourg Gardens in Paris and a modern representation in the Mechanical Museum in San Francisco.
The church where the statue is located is in a historic square, named after the famous statue Piazza della Bocca della Verità. Other tourist centers in the area are no less interesting, just a few minutes’ walk away. It is advisable to combine them in a day trip in the area. The main ones are the Roman Forum, the Palatine Hill, and the Circus Maximus.
Opening times – Monday to Saturday, 9:30-17:50; in winter, the place closes at 16:50.
How to get there – you can get to the place by subway (line B); the nearest metro station is Circo Massimo. The address is Piazza Bocca della Verità 18.
Entry is free. You can donate to the church at the entrance.