July 15, 2017

The Mouth of Truth does not bite

Mouth of Truth - Bocca della Verità

A circular marble sculpture of a large face with an open mouth, which was in all likelihood used as drain cover, owes its allure to the superstition according to which the Bocca della Verità bites off the hand of anyone not telling the truth.

The legend became a popular part of culture. In the nineteenth century the Italian writer Gioacchino Belli wrote a poem about the legend and the Mouth of Truth even entered American culture when it featured in the 1953 movie Roman Holiday.

The massive marble mask weighs about 1300 kg and probably depicts the face of the sea god Oceanus.

The Mouth of Truth stands against the left wall of the portico of the Santa Maria in Cosmedin church, at the piazza della Bocca della Verità, the site of the ancient Forum Boarium (the ancient cattle market). It attracts plenty of visitors who audaciously stick their hand in the mouth.

The Mouth of Truth can be reached from Domus Prima with buses 916 or 46 (Piazza Venezia).

Photo: John Hughes /

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