Immortalized in the 1953 film Roman Holiday, starring Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck, the Mouth of Truth is among the most famous attractions of the Eternal City. Visitors to Rome flock to put their hands in the mouths of the stone statues. But what is it about?
Well, here we tell you everything – straight from the horse’s mouth… Of the truth.
What exactly is The Mouth of Truth?
There is a strong theory for its use and origin, although we can’t be entirely sure, that it may have been an ancient Roman-era drainage cover. The Mouth of Truth has undergone a carbon dating which confirms that it dates back to the Ancient Roman period. The marble mask is huge weighing a whopping 1300kg, note that the holes for the eyes, nostrils and mouth could theoretically allow water to pass through.
The Mouth of Truth was found in the 13th century located very close to a pagan Roman temple dedicated to Hercules, and is believed to have been contained within the temple. Hercules was the Roman equivalent of the Greek divine hero Heracles, characteristically famed for his strength and many wide-ranging adventures.
The Legend of the Mouth of Truth
The Mouth of Truth is extremely famous for the medieval legend associated with it. People believed that the mouth of the marble face closed and removed the hand of anyone who told a lie when they dared to put their hand in it. You could call it an ancient lie detector.
In the past, people accused of perjury or adultery were brought here. After taking the oath, they put their hand in their mouth. According to legend it was even used in the Middle Ages as a test of truth. An executioner hid behind the puck with a sharp sword ready to strike.
The legend became a popular part of Roman culture and one of Rome’s most popular hidden gems. Italian parents still threaten lying children with a visit to the Bocca della Verità. The 1953 film ‘Roman Holiday’ introduced her and made her world famous through Hollywood.
Where is it?
The Mouth of Truth is located in the center of Rome, under the portico of the church of Santa Maria in Cosmedin.
The ancient Fabricus Bridge
If you plan to visit, be sure to combine it with a short walk across Rome’s oldest bridge, the Pons Fabricus. Incredibly the bridge was built in 62 BC. and is still in its original location and original state.
Across the bridge is the beautiful area of Trastevere, not to be missed during your stay in the Eternal City – an area very famous for the best Roman cuisine in the city. This should keep you busy for a few hours in Rome!