How Rome’s Mouth of Truth is Saving its Church

The monument is said to hack off the hands of liars. | By NGT Staff  
Mouth of Truth Rome
The crackling chemistry between Cary Grant and Audrey Hepburn at the Mouth of Truth in “Roman Holiday” has ensured lengthy queues of tourists and lovers. Photo: Paramount Pictures/Youtube

Travellers often post photos of their hand inside the gaping mouth of Rome’s iconic marble face, the Bocca della Verità, while appearing extremely scared. That’s because this ancient monument, whose name translates to the Mouth of Truth, is said to bite off the fingers of a liar who dares to put a hand in its mouth. The popular attraction will now do more than rattle a conscience: it will also help repair the church where it is located, thanks to a recently introduced fee of 2€ (₹75).

The Bocca della Verità is said to have been an ornate sewer cover or part of an ancient fountain that was later attached to the portico of the church, which was built on the site of a pagan temple in the eighth century. The popularity of the marble face spiked after its lie-detecting abilities played a key role in 1953 Hollywood romance Roman Holiday. In the film, a reporter (Cary Grant) on a glorious day of sightseeing with a princess on the run (Audrey Hepburn), plays a prank on her by pretending to lose his hand to the monument. It ends well.

It remains to be seen how the introduction of the fee will bring change for the Church of Santa Maria, which has not received extensive restoration in nearly nine centuries.

The fee, which allows visitors one photo with the sculpture, will be collected by a church official who will be on hand to monitor the number of images taken.

The church has a legend of its own. On display inside, is a skull that the faithful believe belongs to St. Valentine, the patron saint of lovers (and Valentine’s Day). The Roman priest and doctor who was imprisoned for marrying Christian couples and aiding the spread of Christianity, was beheaded for attempting to convert Roman Emperor Claudius II to his faith.


Psst. Want a weekly dose of travel inspiration in your inbox?