Santa Maria in Cosmedin Basilica & Mouth of Truth Rome

The main attraction of the Basilica of Santa Maria in Cosmedin in Rome is not found in the church itself, but in its atrium. The Mouth of Truth (Bocca della Verità) can be seen as an early version of the lie detector. Most decorations in this 6th-century church precede the 12th-century.

Santa Maria in Cosmedin Basilica Rome

Address, opening hours and admission

Address: Piazza della Bocca della Verità, 18 (District: Ripa). Telefoon: +39 066787759. Public transport: Metro: Circo Massimo (lne B). Opening hours: Winter: 9,30-17,00; Summer: 9,30-18,00. Closed: Never, but it is recommended not to visit the church during mass (Sundays at 10,30 . Admission: Free. For 2 Euros you are allowed to use your own camera to take one photograph of yourself with your hand inside the famous mouth.

History and description

Santa Maria in Cosmedin Basilica Rome
Santa Maria in Cosmedin

The Santa Maria in Cosmedin Basilica is located in the Piazza della Bocca della Verità. The church has several times been reconstructed after having been destroyed by earthquakes or by human hand.

It is located on the exact spot where once the Statio Annonae (a kind of old food market) and the Ara Maximus Erculi used to be. Some columns of the Statio are still standing and were incorporated into the church.

The church was founded in the 6th century, but the Romanesque bell tower dates from the 11th century.

The name Cosmedin is of Greek origin and means “decoration”. The church owes its name to the richly decorated interior.

Mouth of Truth

Mouth of Truth Rome
Mouth of Truth

The Santa Maria in Cosmedin Basilica is especially famous for the Mouth of Truth, a large round sculpture of a face with an open mouth, under the portico. It was believed that if liars stuck their hands in the crack, the mouth would close and bite the hand. This legend became famous after Gregory Peck and Audrey Hepburn visited the attraction in the film “Roman Holiday”. The sculpture is made of white Pavonazzetto-marble It is believed to have been part of an ancient Roman fountain or manhole. It was not until the 17th century that it was placed under the portico of the church. Originally it probably depicted some pagan god.

Other highlights

A restored painting in the apse shows the “Virgin and Child, with Saints”.

Santa Maria in Cosmedin has a beautiful cosmatesque-style floor.

In a side altar to the left of the church the skull of Saint Valentine can be seen.

Santa Maria in Cosmedin Basilica – Piazza Bocca della Verità, Rome

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