Bocca della Verità

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Bocca della Verità

The Bocca della Verità ( German  "Mouth of Truth" ) is a disk-shaped relief that is attached to the left narrow side in the pillared porch of the Roman church of Santa Maria in Cosmedin . The name Bocca della Verità was first mentioned in a document in 1485. The ancient relief, which is around 2000 years old, has been in the porch of the church since 1632.

The marble

The Bocca della Verità is made of Pavonazzetto marble. This marble ( marmor phrygium , marmor synnadicum or marmor docimium ) comes from Dokimeion in Phrygia, today Phrygian Valley ( Turkish Frig Vadisi ), near the city of İscehisar , has a slightly gray color and is relatively fine-grained. It was exported as a blank. From Dokimeion also comes a kind of light marble with reddish veins, which was mainly used for the elaboration of columnar sarcophagi .

The diameter of the disc is approx. 175 cm, its thickness 19 cm. The weight is given as 1,200–1,300 kg. It is broken by a total of five holes: two for the eyes, one for the mouth and two for the nostrils. At its edge there is another hole on the left and right in which it was attached to the wall with metal hooks.


Forum Boarium with course Cloaca Maxima, Ara Maxima and St. Maria in Cosmedin
Jupiter Ammon with ram horns on both sides of the head

The original use cannot be clarified with absolute certainty. The Bocca della Verità could come from the Ara Maxima Herculis , the great altar of Hercules , on the remains of which the church of Santa Maria in Cosmedin was built. The Romans worshiped Heracles under the Latin name Hercules , derived from the Etruscan Hercle and the Greek name through syncope , like the Greeks as a god. However, this differs from its annexed counterpart in a number of myths. At his temple on the Forum Boarium, businessmen promised him a tenth part of their profits when they started their travels .

Most often, however, the thesis is put forward that the relief was a kind of " channel or well cover " of the Cloaca Maxima . The following indications are given for this:

  • If you imagine the marble slice lying down, the holes on the nose, mouth and eyes are in the deepest places, which could be explained as enemas.
  • The heavy wear and tear of the protruding parts is characteristic of a relief that lay on the ground for a long time and was polished to a shine by many feet.
  • The current location is not far from the Cloaca Maxima.

Also the representation is no longer clearly identifiable because of the poor state of preservation - among others Oceanos , Triton , the Roman god Faunus , but also Jupiter Ammon , who came from Egypt , are being considered. The Egyptian Jupiter is depicted with ram horns on either side of the head. Greeks and Romans brought him to Rome from their colonies, mainly Cyrene , and worshiped him as Jupiter Ammon . The constellation of Aries in the zodiac was also associated with this cult. The original Egyptian name was Amun and stood for a willow god. Ammon was most highly venerated in Thebes in Upper Egypt.

In Venice, similar masks, the Bocca di Leone , were used as public mailboxes through which petitions and denunciations were sent to the highest rulers.

In art and literature

  • According to a medieval legend, anyone who puts it in her mouth and does not tell the truth will lose their hand.
  • Far less known today is that around 1900 the composer Heinrich Platzbecker , in collaboration with Adele Osterloh , composed an operetta of the same name.
  • The Bocca della Verità appears in the short story Nightwings (1969) by Robert Silverberg .
  • The radio play “Bocca della verità” is by Friederike Mayröcker .
  • The ritual of putting one's hand in the stone's mouth is depicted in Harun Farocki's installation Transmission (2007) along with similar gestures involving touch.


  • On March 12, 1812, the robber chief Stefano Spadolino and four accomplices were executed by shooting at the Bocca della Verità.
  • The Bocca della Verità was best known for the film A Heart and a Crown with Gregory Peck and Audrey Hepburn . This made Santa Maria in Cosmedin a popular destination for tourists.
  • The scene from A Heart and a Crown was parodied by Hideo Nakata in the 2000 Japanese film Sleeping Bride . She also appears in the 1994 film Only You, starring Robert Downey Jr. and Marisa Tomei .
  • She can also be seen in the game Animal Crossing for Nintendo GameCube and also in Animal Crossing: Wild World for Nintendo DS .
  • In addition, the Bocca della Verità can be found in other Nintendo games, for example as an opponent in the Awakening representative of the " Fire Emblem " series.

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Paulys Realencyclopadie der classical antiquity . Volume III, 1 (1897), col. 573-575.
  2. Ammon. In: Retrieved January 2, 2015 .
  3. Bocca della verità . In: Meyers Großes Konversations-Lexikon . 6th edition. Volume 3, Bibliographisches Institut, Leipzig / Vienna 1905, p.  105 .
  4. BOCCA DELLA VERITA. In: Retrieved January 2, 2015 .
  5. ^ Heinrich Platzbecker: The mouth of truth. Bocca della verità, operetta in three acts. Eulenburg, Leipzig approx. 1900 ( page no longer available , search in web archives: photo of the composer UB Uni Frankfurt )@1@ 2Template: Toter Link /
  6. Friederike Mayröcker, Bocca della verità , with Klaus Brömmelmeier, Rebecca Klingenberg and Janina Reinke. Music: Philipp Schaufelberger - Director: Stephan Heilmann - Production: Schweizer Radio DRS, 2009 - Duration: 49 '
  7. Christian August Vulpius: Curiosities of the physical-literary-artistic-historical past and present. Verlag des Landes-Industrie-Comptoirs, 1812, p. 39. Restricted preview in the Google book search


  • John James Blunt, member of St John's College in Cambridge: Origin of religious ceremonies and customs of the Roman Catholic Church, especially in Italy and Sicily . Printed and published by Carl Wilhelm Leske, Leipzig and Darmstadt 1826, p. 84–85 ( Google Book [accessed October 23, 2009] It was common at this altar to affirm solemn treaties with an oath, and that is why the term "mehercle" became such a vulgar form of worship. This appeal to heaven In order to confirm the words which the contracting parties had spoken of, the Virgin, who has a church not far from the place, has now - as one can reasonably suspect - used the above-mentioned designation).
  • Renate Tölle-Kastenbein : Ancient water culture. Beck, Munich 1990. p. 168. ISBN 3-406-34602-2 (Beck'Ǐs archaeological library)

Web links

Commons : Bocca della Verità  - collection of images, videos and audio files

Coordinates: 41 ° 53 ′ 17.5 "  N , 12 ° 28 ′ 53.3"  E