Across from a small park that contained the old Roman Tempio di Vesta, originally dedicated to the conquering god, Hercules Victor, was the church of Santa Maria in Cosmedin which had attracted a line of people. We had arrived in Rome after a lengthy journey along parts of the Via Francigena. Carol had decided to have a relaxing morning and I wanted to visit a number of churches.
Curiosity prompted me to join the line. I soon saw what people had lined up for, the famous Mouth of Truth – (Bocca della Verita). Set into the wall of the church’s portico, the circular stone may have been a drain cover back in ancient Roman times, but medieval tradition held that its stone jaws would snap shut over the hands of any who told lies or had committed adultery.
In earlier times, to support the legend, a priest was said to have hidden behind the stone to smack the fingers of those known to be guilty. Many of the visitors had their photos taken alongside the stone, but I didn’t see anyone slide a hand in between those solid stone jaws.
After visiting the famous stone mouth, I entered the church itself. A marvellous ancient place (aren’t they all?). Lots of other tourists milling about pointing at the sculptures and paintings that decorated the interior.
One of the most interesting exhibits was the skull of St. Valentine, quite gruesome, almost smiling. The sun was streaming in through the windows and it was a pleasure to slide ones feet across the marble-stone floor which had been worn smooth by countless visitors.
This was (in eclessiastical terms a minor church), we had to visit the seven pilgrim churches in Rome as part of the great Road to Rome pilgrimage.
Still, they could wait a little longer as I had to find myself a gelato first!