Bocca della verità: the symbol the Roman culture in the world

The Bocca della Verità is one of the most representative monuments in Rome. Several legends have been told about this peculiar monument, making it even more interesting and suggestive. Let’s discover its origins and history.

When we talk about the Bocca della Verità we refer to a marble mask situated on the wall of Santa Maria in Cosmedin church, in the centre of Rome. The Bocca della Verità has been situated in the church since 1632, but this marble sculpture has a more ancient history, as it is a Roman work, even if we are not able to discover the precise date of origin: it probably dates back to the 1st century, but we're not sure about it. It is the face of a man with open eyes and mouth. The face is surrounded by a long beard and hair. The archaeological studies carried out on the sculpture make us thinking it depicts Jupiter Ammon, but other experts say it would be a faun or God Ocean. Probably, it originally was a sewer cover.
In the ancient times, Roman people the actual have the habit of putting marble masks show the position of the sewers, representing river divinities with the task of drinking the rain before it could all the streets of the ancient Rome. Unfortunately, we don't know the way the mask was moved to the wall of the church. Some historical documents dating back to the 11th century - a sort of guide for pilgrims - talk about the Bocca della Verità as an attraction you can't miss, attributing it magic powers of predicting the future to those who touch the face. A 12th-century German text, tells the powers of the mask were used to discover heretics.
Finally, a document from the 15th century, talks about the creation of the Bocca della Verità by a magician named Virgilio: it is said he created this work to help wives to be sure their husbands weren't unfaithful. This magic legend is just one of the several stories talking about the monument receiving millions of visitors every year.

All the legends talking about the Bocca della Verità say it was able to discover any lie and liar. According to popular beliefs, the Bocca della Verità should bit and ingest the hand of all the liars. This legend certainly has medieval origins, and has been down over the time until nowadays.
We will tell you about a very famous legend actually dating back to the late Romantic period. It is said the wife of a Roman patrician betrayed him while he was fighting in war. When he came back, as he suspected a betrayal by his wife, he requested the Bocca della Verità test. The woman was perfectly conscious she could be discovered, so she decided to invent a trick to save her hand - and probably her life, too. She asked her lover to pretend to be mad, and to assault her, kissing her in front of the crowd on the test day, and the lover did it.
The woman was able to put her hand into the mouth to swear in front of everybody she had been kissed only by her husband and by the crazy man had just assaulted her, in all her life, so being sincere and saving her hand. The betrayed husband, without discovering the truth, got happy and went back home with his wife. Obviously, we are just talking about fantastic stories, but tourists still wait in long queues to put their hand into the Bocca della Verità, and swear eternal love each other. The name Bocca della Verità, however, is not its original name. The first time it appeared, it was in 1485, in a document telling it was originally situated on the external part of the church portico, lately moved by the will of Pope Urbano VIII.

The Bocca della Verità surely is one of the most famous monuments in Rome, one of those characterized by long queues in which tourists wait for a long time, just to take a picture they can bring home with them. It is a symbol of the Roman culture, so strong to be protagonist of several movies. The most famous film showing it is the American “Vacanze Romane”, by William Wyler.
It is a movie set outwards, where one of the three protagonists is Rome, with all its wonderful monuments, from Fontana di Trevi to Piazza di Spagna, and, obviously, the Bocca della Verità is one of them. An epic scene takes place in front of this wonderful monument, and one of the most famous in the movie, when the protagonist Gregory Peck makes a joke to his lover Audrey Hepburn, pretending to lose his hand in the big mouth, as he told a lie.
The American film had a great success because of his flat and it cast, giving the Bocca della Verità the opportunity to become famous all over the world. For this reason, probably, the Chancellor of Basilica di Santa Maria in Cosmedin has decided to ask for a payment to make a picture with the hand into the mouth. The money they earn is spent for extraordinary restoration works of the monument, and regular cleaning of the marble, always getting dirty because of the high level of pollution in the area. However, nobody complains about it, and everybody pays the ticket in order to have the opportunity of putting their hand into the famous mouth.

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