Mouth of Truth: legend and history

Mouth of Truth: legend and history Mouth of Truth: legend and history

Tourist information

05 Jan 2023

One of the famous symbols of Rome is the Bocca della Verità, a legendary sculpture found on the wall of the pronaos of the Church of Santa Maria in Cosmedin in Rome since 1632.
Famous all over the world for the curious legend that characterizes it. Let’s find out in detail what we are talking about.

The legend and origins of the Mouth of Truth

The ancient mask in pavonazzetto marble of the Mouth of Truth, is one of the most famous symbols of Rome and is located in Piazza della Bocca della Verità.

The mask is the representation of the God of the Sea with a bearded male face with pierced and hollow eyes, nose and mouth. The sculpture has a diameter of 1.75 meters and weighs over 1,300 kg.

To give him an undisputed fame was the film Roman Holidays by William Wyler (1953) in which the protagonists Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck shoot a scene right in front of the Mouth of Truth in Rome.
In the scene, Gregory Peck puts his hand inside his mouth and pretends to have lost it, actually hiding it in his jacket. The scene was real and not studied but conceived by the actor, causing Hepburn to scream in an attempt to help her colleague.

What is the legend of the Mouth of Truth?

In 1485 a fascinating medieval legend spread that the mouth could bite the hand of those who had not claimed the truth.

This tradition found widespread especially among jealous husbands. In fact it is said that a husband who is not very confident of his wife, decided to attest to his loyalty by bringing it before the mouth of truth. With cunning, the unfaithful wife asked the lover to introduce himself in that place and to pretend to be crazy and embrace her dynanzia everyone. In this way, the woman could swear at the moment of putting her hand, to have embraced in her life only her husband and that crazy man.

How to hold the Mouth of Truth?

The Mouth of Truth is located in Rome in Piazza della Bocca della Verità, 18.
You can visit the sculpture with our panoramic tour Hop On Hop Off, getting off at stop 4 of the Circus Maximus. There is no entrance ticket to the Mouth of Truth. The ancient mask can be visited during the opening of the gate of the pronaos of the Church:

  • Winter hours: 9.30-17.00 (closing Gate participants hours 16.50)
  • Summer hours: 9.30-18.00 (closing Gate participants 17.50)

What to see in Piazza della Bocca della Verità

Piazza della Bocca della Verità is located opposite the Tiberina Island, between Via Luigi Petroselli and Largo Amerigo Petrucci.

Near the square you can admire many beauties including:

Temple of Hercules
Winner The Temple of Hercules Victor, also known as the Temple of Hercules Olearius, or Round Temple, was erected towards the end of the second century B.C. and dedicated to Hercules Victor protector of merchants. Inside the building, from the end of the fifteenth century, there is a fresco depicting the Madonna and Child and Saints.

Fontana dei Tritoni
The Triton Fountain was built in 1717 by the architect Carlo Bizzaccheri on commission of Pope Clement XI. The project is inspired by the Triton fountain by Gian Lorenzo Bernini and is a large octagonal basin with concave sides where two kneeling newts hold an oyster-shaped shell.

Arco degli Argentari
The Argentari Arch is an ancient monument erected in 204 and located next to the church of San Giorgio in Velabro. The Arch was dedicated to Septimius Severus and his family by the argentarii (bankers) and negotiantes boarii (oxen merchants). It was the monumental entrance to the Forum Boario.

Arco di Giano
Arco di Giano is a quadrangular arch with four pilatri, built in brick and covered with marble slabs testifies to the taste of the fourth century.

The Municipal Rose Garden and the Orange Garden
With our Hop-On Hop-Off Tour, and always from stop 4 of the Circus Maximus, you will find a wonderful garden located on the slopes of the Aventine Hill famous for being the most beautiful Town Rose Garden in the world. A visit to the rose garden is a must, especially if you are in Rome in the spring. You will see over 1,100 species of roses from all over the world, from the Far East, South Africa, Europe and New Zealand.
The Roseto Comunale awaits you with the new opening from 21 April 2023, on the occasion of Christmas in Rome and the new flowering of roses.

But the surprises do not end here. From the rose garden indeed. You can walk to the "Giardino degli Aranci", one of the most romantic places in Rome where all the tourists of the world observe the suggestive view of the dome of San Pietro from the famous "Keyhole".