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Bocca della Verità
La Bocca 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.
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. andMarisa 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.
La bocca della verità in una scena del film Vacanze romane conAudrey Hepburn e Gregory Peck.
In medieval times there is a growing legend that Virgil wizard to build the Mouth of Truth, for use by husbands and wives who had doubted the fidelity of a spouse. In the fifteenth century Italian and German travelers remember, not quite incredulous, this rock ‘called stones of truth, which once had virtue to show when a woman I did do it to her husband. ” In another German legend of the fifteenth century we find the image that “dare not” bite the hand of a Roman empress who – although he had actually betrayed his imperial consort – the tricks with a logical device. A similar story that circulated in folk tales, about a woman unfaithful, conducted by her husband rightly suspicious of the Mouth of Truth to be tested, managed to save his hand with a shrewdness. In fact, the woman said offending lover to show up in the day when he would be put to the test and, feigning madness, the embrace in front of everyone. The lover executed perfectly as you request. So the woman at the time of putting his hand in his mouth, he could safely swear that it was embraced in his life only by her husband and the man that everyone had seen. Having told the truth, she was able to withdraw his hand free from the terrible mouth, although he was guilty of adultery. The name “Mouth of Truth” appears in 1485 and since then the sculpture was consistently mentioned among the Roman curiosities, being frequently reproduced in drawings and prints. From these we deduce that it was originally placed outside the porch of the church was moved to the porch with the restoration commissioned by Pope Urban VIII Barberini in 1631. From the ranks of tourists still expect to be photographed with his hand in the mouth “magic”, it can be assumed to continue to be included in the tour guides and also in a hurry.
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