Bocca della Verità in Rome
La Bocca della Verità (in English, "the Mouth of Truth") is an image, carved from Pavonazzetto marble, of a man-like face, located in the portico of the church of Santa Maria in Cosmedin in Rome, Italy. The sculpture is thought to be part of a 1st century ancient Roman fountain, or perhaps a manhole cover, portraying one of several possible pagan gods, probably Oceanus. Most Romans believe that the 'Bocca' represents the ancient god of the river Tiber.
The most famous characteristic of the Mouth, however, is its role as a lie detector. Starting from the Middle Ages, it was believed that if one told a lie with one's hand in the mouth of the sculpture, it would be bitten off. The piece was placed in the portico of the Santa Maria in Cosmedin in the 17th century. This church is also home to the supposed relics of Saint Valentine.
In popular culture
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 film Only You starring Robert Downey Jr. and Marisa Tomei.
Replicas and similar sculptures
Electronic coin-operated reproductions of the Mouth are found in fairgrounds of Spain and Hungary, at some motorway service stations in the UK and Croatia, usually together with photo booths. There is also a full size replica of the Mouth of Truth at the private Pikake Botanical Gardens in Valley Center, California.
There is a similar sculpture of a lion in Mahabalipuram, Tamil Nadu, India that, according to local lore, bites off one's hand if a lie is told.
In France at Parc Astérix, one reproduction of the Mouth is used as a bin and thanks the people dropping garbage down her throat.
- Official website
- The Mouth of the Truth - 360° Ipix panorama
- The Mouth of the Truth, Art & History
- The Mouth of the Truth, Virtual Tour