Bocca della Verità

The Mouth of Truth.

The massive marble mask weighs about 1300 kg and probably depicts the face of the sea god Oceanus. The eyes, nostrils and mouth are open. Historians aren't quite certain what the original purpose of the disc was. It was possibly used as a drain cover in the nearby Temple of Hercules Invictus, which had an oculus - a round open space in the middle of the roof, similar to that of the Pantheon, hence it could rain inside. It is also thought that cattle merchants used it to drain the blood of cattle sacrificed to the god Hercules. In the thirteenth century the disc was probably removed from the temple and placed against the wall of the Santa Maria in Cosmedin. In the seventeenth century it eventually moved to its current location inside the portico of the church.

The Mouth of Truth stands against the left wall of the portico of the Santa Maria in Cosmedin church, at the piazza della Bocca della Verità, the site of the ancient Forum Boarium (the ancient cattle market). It attracts plenty of visitors who audaciously stick their hand in the mouth.

Cultural references and derivative works

La Bocca della Verità, statue by Jules Blanchard, in the Luxembourg Garden, Paris.
The empress and the Mouth, here shown as a statue of a lion, in a German plaquette of c. 1550

The story of the empress is one of the "Large Power of Women" series of woodcuts by Lucas van Leyden of c. 1512,[1] though it is not commonly included in such groups.

The Mouth of Truth is known to English-speaking audiences mostly from its appearance in the 1953 film Roman Holiday. The film also uses the Mouth of Truth as a storytelling device since both Hepburn's and Peck's characters are not initially truthful with each other.

This scene from Roman Holiday was parodied in the 2000 Japanese film Sleeping Bride by Hideo Nakata. It was also replicated in the 1994 film Only You starring Robert Downey Jr. and Marisa Tomei and by a group of tourists in the 2004 film The World.

The climactic scene of Robert Silverberg's 1968 novella Nightwings, in which the characters reveal their secrets, takes place at the Mouth of Truth in a futuristic Rome (now named "Roum").

Bocca Della Verita fortune teller machine at the Musee Mecanique

In Het geheim van de afgebeten vingers by Dutch writer Rindert Kromhout,[2] the fingers of lying children are cut off by a skeleton with a scythe who lives in the Capuchin Crypt in the Santa Maria della Concezione dei Cappuccini.

In the second part of the manga and anime JoJo's Bizarre Adventure, the Bocca della Verità is a gate to a cave where millenary creatures, known as the Pillar Men, are hibernating as statues.

In Fire Emblem Fates, the Stoneborn enemies, known as Golems in Japan, have the Mouth of Truth as their faces. They are created and influenced by Nohr, a Roman-inspired kingdom and one of the game's potential allies.

In the video game Tomb Raider Chronicles, the Bocca della Verità appears in the first level (set in Rom) as a switch that the player can interact with to open doors.

There are a number of Bocca della Verita replicas and derivative works. A full-size reproduction sits in the Alta Vista Gardens in California and one of Jules Blanchard's sculptures in the Luxembourg Garden in Paris depicts a woman with her hand in the sculpture's mouth. Coin-operated fortune teller machines have been developed and installed in different parts of the world, including one on display in the Musee Mecanique.[3][4]


  1. Snyder, 461
  2. Telkers, Anne (18 May 2001). "De eerste beursdag in Turijn". Boekblad. Retrieved 25 March 2015.
  3. "BOCCA DELLA VERITA' facts and history". Retrieved 2012-12-20.
  4. Nolte, Carl (27 February 2002). "Old and in the way / The Musee Mecanique will soon be history". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved 19 November 2016.


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Coordinates: 41°53′17″N 12°28′54″E / 41.88806°N 12.48167°E / 41.88806; 12.48167

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