The famous Bocca della Verita (Mouth of Truth) is a large disk of marble in the shape of a mask and legend has it that if you put your right hand in the mouth while telling a lie the mouth will snap shut and bite your hand off.

Word is that priests used to put scorpions in there to perpetuate the myth and husbands would use it to test their wives’ fidelity.

Fans of the film Roman Holiday will know it from the scene when Gregory Peck pretends to lose his hand and draws shrieks of unscripted terror from Audrey Hepburn.

The mouth lives in the portico of the beautiful, medieval Chiesa di Santa Maria in Cosmedin. Much altered over the centuries, it was originally built by Pope Hadrian in the 8th-century by merging an arcaded colonnade from a Roman market inspector’s office with walls from a 7th century Christian welfare centre.

In the 12th century the seven-storey bell tower and portico were added while inside the beautiful floor, high altar and schola cantorum (choir) were decorated with Cosmati inlaid coloured marble. There are also 12-th century frescoes in the aisles, inside the nave arches and scant remains high up on the nave walls.

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