Monument Guide: Bocca Della Verita (Mouth of Truth)
Legend says that if you place your hand in the mouth of the statue and tell a lie, the Bocca will slam shut and bite it off.
The legends surrounding the Bocca Della Verita (a marble mask said to depict the face of the Sea God Oceanus) have been circulating for centuries.
If a man thought his wife was unfaithful, he would bring her to the Statue and have her put her hand in to testify that she had been faithful, but before she did, her lover would come forward and kiss her! She then claimed she did not know him and the townspeople chased him away! So when she then swore she had only kissed with her husband and this stranger, she wouldn’t be telling a lie! It’s actually quite genius – in a “you should keep it in your pants and not stray from your husband, but glad you get to keep your hand” kind of way!
No one is sure what the original purpose of this marble mask is, but it is speculated that it could have been intended as manhole cover in the Temple of Hercules Victor (located nearby), or as part of a fountain installation. They even say that merchants may have used it to drain the blood of cattle sacrificed to Hercules…
As if the legend wasn’t scary enough – if you believed it anyways – it is said that priests would hide scorpions in the mouth so people would be stung by them when they put their hands in.
It is also thought that during medieval times, the mask was used for “trials by ordeal”. An executioner would stand behind the statue with a sharp sword or knife and listen to the story of the accused and then cut their fingers off if they believed the accused was guilty.
*Just in case you weren’t 100% sure what a Trial by Ordeal is (I had no idea!!) it was an ancient practice by which the guilt or innocence of the accused was determined by subjecting them to a painful, dangerous or unpleasant experience. The test was one of life of death. Proof of innocence was survival.*
Unfortunately, it was closed when we walked by so we made plans to go the next morning. But, when we did, we found an incredibly long line and we had to checkout of our Airbnb and catch a train to our next destination so we didn’t end up getting the classic hand in pictures…
Although, I think it’s for the best, I like my hands just the way they are 😉
Hope you enjoyed this post, sorry there aren’t more pictures and the ones I did get aren’t the best! If you’re interested in seeing another statue like this, I would definitely recommend going here. Just outside is a beautiful fountain that is still in use and it’s completely deserted 🙂
La Bocca della Verità
Piazza della Bocca della Verità, 18,
Opening hours: Every day, 9:30 am – 5:30 pm