The Mouth of Truth is one of the most eye-catching attractions in Rome that may or maybe not bite off the hands of liars.
Mouth of Truth In Italy
One of the greatest draws to Rome today is its extensive ancient Roman ruins – here, people come from far and wide to see the Colosseum (which has inspired people for two thousand years) and the Forum (the ancient beating heart of Rome). But there are other less dramatic but equally fascinating Roman ruins to be found around Rome and the Italian peninsula. One of the most unusual attractions is the Mouth of Truth (or Bocca Della Verita in Italian).
While in Rome, take the time to explore Emperor Hadrian’s Villa just outside of the city. The city of Rome is where the Rome Republic was born and is one of the most historic and rewarding cities in Europe to visit. Naturally, one of the best places to see Roman ruins is Italy, with many Roman ruins found all over the peninsula.
The Mouth of Truth is an eye-catching marble mask with a diameter of 1.75 meters and is dedicated to the God of the Sea (probably Oceanus). The God of the Sea is presented by a bearded male face.
- Size: 1.75 Meters In Diameter
- Weight: 1,300 kg or 2,800 lbs
Don’t try to carry the marble mask away – it weighs around 1,300 kg or 2,800 lbs. The eye, nostrils, and mouth of the mask are open, and historians are still trying to work out its original purpose. One idea is that it may have been a drain cover in the nearby Temple of Hercules Victor.
The Temple of Hercules Victor is a round temple completely surrounded by a colonnade. It is the earliest surviving marble building in Rome and is well-preserved today. Additionally, it is a temple shrouded in mystery as it is still unsolved who the temple was dedicated to and what its purpose was.
It is thought to have been made in the 1st century AD – when the Roman Empire was at its height.
The Mouth of Truth was made famous in the classic 1953 movie Roman Holiday starring Audrey Hepburn. It was depicted as a storytelling device (in the movie, both Hepburn’s and Gregory Peck’s characters were not truthful with each other at the start of the movie).
The Legends & Myths Behind The Mouth Of Truth
There are a number of old and medieval legends surrounding the Mouth of Truth. One of which is that the marble mask will bite off the hand of any liar who places their hand in its mouth. It will also bite off the hand of whoever tells a porky or tall tale while their hand is in its mouth.
One story has it that a husband suspected the fidelity (or lack thereof) of this wife and so took her to the Mouth of Truth to test her faithfulness. Along the way, she pretended to swoon so that she was caught in the arms of her lover (who happened to be there). When she got to the Mouth of Truth, she was able to say truthfully that she had only been in the arms of her husband and the ‘random’ man who had just caught her.
There are plenty of more legends and myths around the odd marble mask.
Today one can still see tourists coming and perhaps sometimes audaciously inserting their hands in its mouth.
Where To See The Mouth Of Truth Today
Today the Mouth of Truth is located in Santa Maria in Cosmedin Church at the Piazza Della Bocca Della Verita at the site of the ancient Forum Boarium. It is set against the left wall of the church’s portico, where it has been since 1632 (it was located in the Piazza Della Bocca Della Verita before that). The Forum Boarium was used as a cattle market.
- Price: 2 Euro ($2.10)
- Opening Hours: 9.30 am to 5.50 pm (Santa Maria de Cosmedin Church)
If one would like to visit, then expect there to be crowds of people trying to get their pictures taken with it. So plan to get there either early in the morning or later on during the day during the high season.
Perhaps the best preserved complete Roman structure in Rome today is the remarkable Pantheon – an ancient Roman temple now Catholic Church.