The Mouth of Truth, or La bocca della verità, is a Pavonazzetto marble sculpture located now in the Church of Santa Maria in Cosmedin, its home since the last 17th century. It’s a popular attraction in Rome and worthy of a visit.
The circular slab originally probably served as part of an ancient Roman fountain or was a manhole cover for one of Rome’s ancient streets. In the Middle Ages, the stone was brought to the church and served as a precursor to the modern lie detector test. Legend has it that the mouth would bite off the hand of liars, who would be asked to place their hands inside the mouth to face judgment!
What does the face represent? No one knows for certain, but mostly likely the face represented one of the many ancient Roman gods. The has been used as a story telling device in a number of movies, and anyone familiar with Gregory Peck and Audrey Hepburn in the film, Roman Holiday, will remember that the mouth featured prominently in the telling of the story.
If you’re looking for a more detailed description and theory regarding this ancient man-hole cover, check out this site. Check out this 3-D photo of the mouth in situ.
The mouth is located at the Church of Santa Maria in Cosmedin, Piazza della Bocca della Verità, 18, 00186 in Rome (see map below). Your best bet for reaching the stone is to walk or take the Metro to Circo Massimo, heading northwest up Via del Circo Massimo:
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