The Mouth of Truth (Bocca della Veritá in Italian) is a huge mask of marble, famous worldwide and according to the legend, the face’s mouth closes if someone who sticks his hand in is lying.
The huge legendary sculpture has a diameter of almost 2 meters and it weights around 1300 kilograms. It is dedicated to the God of the Sea – Oceanus.
Historians are not sure what the original purpose of the disc was. It was possibly used as a drain cover in the nearby Temple of Hercules Invictus, which had an oculus – a round open space in the middle of the roof; similar to one in Pantheon, hence it could rain inside. It is also thought that animal merchants used it to drain the blood of animal, sacrificed to the god Hercules.
It is said that in the 13th century the disc was probably removed from the temple and placed against the wall of the church Santa Maria in Cosmedin. In the 17th century it was eventually moved to its current location inside the portico of the church.
A medieval legend tells us that the marble mask was used as a lie detector. Those who were accused of committing oath break or adultery were brought here. They had to swear under oath and then put their hand into the mouth. According to the same legend, it was also used during the Middle Ages in trials: an executioner used to hide behind the disc with a sharp sword ready to strike and chop the liar’s hand off.
The legend became a popular part of Italian culture and nowadays parents threaten their children with a visit to the Mouth of Truth, in case they don’t tell the truth.
This enormous marble mask achieved its worldwide fame after a year 1953, when it featured the American movie Roman Holiday, where a bored and sheltered princess escapes her guardians and falls in love with an American newsman in Rome, together visiting plenty of famous places in the city. Most of them included in our Rome Segway tours!
Nowadays, it is very common to see large numbers of people lining up to be photographed with their hand inside the Mouth of Truth… or maybe verifying the truth?!
Mouth of Truth is included in two of our tours: the Panoramic Segway Tour and the Glory of Rome Segway Tour, departing daily from our office on Piazza Mattei.
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