The Mouth of Truth is an enormous Roman marble disk and according to a legend, it bites off the hand of those who lie

Marija Georgievska
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Bocca Della Verità, or in English “The Mouth of Truth”  is a circular marble sculpture located in the portico of the Paleochristian church of Santa Maria in Cosmedin, Rome.

The sculpture is a giant bearded face with an open mouth. According to an ancient belief, anyone who places their hand in its mouth and don’t tell the truth would be bitten. Today, visitors from all around the world come to Rome to check this and take pictures with the sculpture.

The Mouth of Truth   Photo Credit


According to an ancient belief, it will bite off the hand of a liar   Photo Credit

According to Italy Guides, there is a legend that dates back to Roman times, and it is about the wife of a Roman nobleman.

She was accused of adultery, and her husband wanted her to put her hand into the disc’s mouth to prove that she is not lying. The wife knew that she was accused rightly and made a cunning strategy. In front of many people, she told her lover to kiss her and then accused him of being a madman. So she tricked her husband, and her hand was saved. From that moment on, the disc lost its function because many people didn’t believe that she was telling the truth.

Currently, the disk is in the portico of the Paleochristian church of Santa Maria in Cosmedin   Photo Credit


The disk in the scene from the movie “Roman Holiday.”

Historians think that probably this marble disc is a representation of the god Oceanus and no one exactly knows the sculpture’s purpose. It weighs 1, 300 kg and presumably, the disc was a drain cover used in the Temple of Hercules Victor.

The drain cover is a space which is round open in the middle of a roof. Also, it is thought that it was used to drain the blood of cattle merchants when they were offering a sacrifice to the god Hercules. During the 13th century, the sculpture was removed from the temple and it the 17th century it was placed in its current location.

The fortune teller machine in the Musee Mecanique  Photo Credit


Replica of the sculpture in Paris in the Luxembourg Garden  Photo Credit

Today, the Mouth of Truth is best-known for its appearance in the film Roman Holiday from 1953. It is placed in a scene where the actors have a conversation that they are not truthful to each other.

Read another story from us: The Lucifer of Liége: one of the magnificent sculptures of the fallen angel

There are many replicas of the disc today, and one of them is in the Alta Vista Gardens in California, while the other one is in Paris, in the Luxembourg Garden. Also, fortune-teller machines that work on coins were developed around the world, and one of them is on display in the Musee Mecanique.