The legend says (in www.italyguides.it):
"This legend probably originates from Roman times. It is said that the rich wife of a Roman noble was accused of adultery. The woman denied the accusations, but her husband wanted to put her to the test by making her hand inside the stone mouth.
Knowing perfectly well that she was lying, the woman used a very clever strategy. In front of a group of curious bystanders who had gathered around the Mouth of Truth, the man who was actually her lover embraced her and kissed her. She pretended that she didn't know him and accused him of being a madman and the crowd chased him away.
When she put her hand into the mouth, the woman declared that she had never kissed any other man apart from her husband and the poor madman who had just kissed her.
In this way she was certain that she hadn't lied and her hand was saved. The betrayed husband saved her honour, but the Mouth of Truth lost its credibility and it is said that since that day it no longer carried out its function as a right and unappeasable judge."
Of course, everybody knows that the story is just a curiosity, but who doesn't put the hand inside the mouth?
Be prepared for a long line.
This sculpture is located in the courtyard of the Church of Saint Maria of Cosmedin. It is near the foot of the Circe Maximus. Legend states that the statue will bite the hand of a liar. When we got to the statue, there was a queue of people waiting to have their photo taken with it. Being of an impatient frame of mind I just leaned through through the bars and took a photo between other people's shots. We also looked inside the church. It was OK, but not one of the more spectacular ones.
Do you want to know if your girlfriend is truthful?
Take her to the Bocca della Verità ("Mouth of Truth"), Rome's ancient lie detector. According to popular tradition, when you insert your hand into the "mouth" in the wall, it will be bitten off if you tell a lie!
Bocca della Verità is actually a round face carved from marble, now incorporated into the portico wall of the Santa Maria in Cosmedin church. Some say it was part of an ancient Roman fountain, some that it used to be a manhole cover, but who cares! The legend makes it the tourist attraction that it is today.
In the portico of Chiesa di Santa Maria in Cosmedin, on Piazza Bocca della Verita
Bocca della Verita, or 'the mouth of truth', is a depiction of a mask with an open mouth. According to an old legend, if you put your hand in the mouth when you are telling a lie it will snap your hand off.
Not as useful for detecting off-site lies though :)
To keep in mind
As with all popular locations, the queues are huge. Also, once you're there and are about to put your hand into the Bocca, remember that you're only allowed one photo.
Want to try the world’s oldest lie detector? You may not when you find out that it bites. ‘The Mouth of Truth’ is 1.6 meters in diameter and weighs about 1300 kilograms. You place your hand in its mouth and tell the truth.
If you lie, it bites your hand off. Ouch!
Still feel brave? This fantastic large face is made from solid marble and has been dated back to about the 4th century BC. This huge Pagan symbol combines several gods and myths and was always intended, despite it great weight, to be displayed vertically (there are holes in the sides for attachments). It seems to be a blend of the gods Faunus and Silvanus. Faunus was a local Italian god similar to Pan (Greek mythology) who was a king who became divine after his death. He was the son of Saturn and the nymph Canens as is the god of fields and herds. His most important tribute the gifts of FERTILITY and PROPHESY. Silvanus was a god of forest and bush.
Because of his ability to Prophesize, the image of Faunus is included in the Baccchanalia and other feasts honouring Bacchus, Janus, Dianna, Saturn and Mars.
Some other characteristics of the face include the round shape which represents the sun – vital for agriculture. Fertility is represented by the scrota and horns (so leaflet tells me that I bought). There is also the heads of 2 wolves in profile on the sides that are a reference to the god Lupercalia. This protector keeps wolves away from the herds, brings good harvests to farmers, game to hunters and fish to fishermen. The Romans probably placed this huge face in the temple of Ceres in the area where Rome was born. Because of its size and strength the face has been passed down the centuries and now finds itself inside a Christian Church.
SO GO ON! Stick your hand and the better arm in. Look at who you came on holiday with. Tell them you love them……
One of the few places we needed to actually stand on line during our off-season trip was the Mouth of Truth. Legend is that if you are a liar and stick your hand in the stone mouth your hand will be bitten off. Don't leave this site without checking out the skull of St. Valentine! It's worth the donation of .50 euro.
If you come to Rome, you have to stop by it! I think a trip to Rome is not complete without taking a picture here. The Mouth of Truth is located in the atrium of Santa Maria in Cosmedin church. The mask is believed to be part of a 1st century Roman fountain that was portraying several pagan Gods.
This church is perhaps best known for being the place to find the "Bocca Della Verita" (sp?) or the Mouth of Truth. It was reportedly a drain cover in Roman times (which if it is true, shows you how artistic and creative they were back then) then at some point a legend spun out of it saying liars (specially husband or wife who cheated on their better half) will get their hands bitten off by the mouth...thus centuries later it became a tourist attraction in Rome. We had heard of the legend but never knew that the real thing lies in Rome so when we saw fridge magnets in every souvenir store we asked around and visited it. There's always a long queue outside of Bocca Della Verita you will not have any difficulty finding this church. An old man takes pictures for you when asked to and it is nice to drop a Euro or 2 in donation before taking pics. Inside the church also lies part of St. Valentine''s remains so worth checking out as well! The place is otherwise free for entrance
La Bocca della Verita, or "The Mouth of Truth," is one of those stops everybody should see in Rome, but it's also an obvious tourist trap. But at least there's no admission. The only trick is seeing when it's open. I went to see it when it was supposed to be open, but the gate was locked when we arrived, so we had to view it through metal bars. However, as such a huge fan of the movie Roman Holiday, I had to see it nonetheless.
See the Bocca della Verita in the annex to Santa Maria in Cosmedin. This ancient drain cover stands against a wall. People believed that if you put your hand into the slit, and told a lie it would bite your hand off.
It's a bit of fun.
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