Basilica Santa Maria in Cosmedin | Attraction Guides | History Hit

Basilica Santa Maria in Cosmedin

Rome, Lazio, Italy

About Basilica Santa Maria in Cosmedin

Santa Maria in Cosmedin is a charming 8th century church in Rome commissioned by Pope Hadrian I. The site of Santa Maria in Cosmedin, within the locality of the Forum Boarium, was already home to a charitable food distribution centre and an ancient temple dedicated to Hercules Invictus, which was itself reconstructed in the 2nd century BC.

Whilst it was restored in the 9th century and suffered during the Norman invasion, today’s Santa Maria in Cosmedin owes much of its appearance to a 19th century refurbishment.

The unlikely star of the show at Santa Maria in Cosmedin is an ancient plaque known as the Bocca della Verità or ‘Mouth of Truth’. The origins of this ancient Roman block with its lion’s face is unclear – it is usually thought to have been a sewer drain cover or part of a fountain – but it is said that the lion’s mouth will close on anyone’s hand who lies. Tourists line up to test this theory.