First, La Bocca della Verità literally translates as the Mouth of Truth. It is a two ton, six foot diameter, seven inch thick bas relief sculptured medallion, carved from Pavonazzo marble sometime between 200BC to 100 AD. It is located in the covered portico entrance to Chiesa di Santa Maria in Cosmedin in Rome and has stood there since the 17th century. Historians aren't sure of La Bocca's original use, meaning or purpose... either as part of a fountain or as a large manhole cover for the water delivery system in ancient Rome. They are sure that it must have been something very important since the marble he is carved from was quarried in present day Turkey, ruled by the Romans and called Asia Minor in the first century AD.
Still others claim that La Bocca is really Tiberinus, the god of the River Tiber, who according to legend, found the twins Romulus and Remus and gave them to the she-wolf Lupa (who had just lost her own cubs) to suckle. It is said that these twins were the founders of the city of Rome itself. I don't think it's likely that a sculpture of Tiberinus would be carved from marble in Asia Minor of a local diety. It's more likely that La Bocca was carved in that area to honor one of the Roman gods with broader appeal.
Perhaps he is really Bacchus (Dionysus in ancient Greece), a Greco-Roman god of the grape and wine, fertility, harvest, theater and both sexual and religious ecstasy. When I look really closely at the outer areas of hair, I can see a spiraled vine pattern, perhaps representing vines.
But I have another theory about his true identity:
"And when Moses came down from the Mount Sinai, he held the two tables of the testimony, and he knew not that his face was horned from the conversation of the Lord. And Aaron and the children of Israel seeing the face of Moses horned, were afraid to come near.” (Exodus 34:29-30, D-R)
Could it be that the face of La Bocca is really the horned face of Moses? Even Michelangelo sculpted Moses with horns. Perhaps the horns represent the righteousness of Moses...
"I will cut off the horns of all the wicked, but the horns of the righteous will be lifted up." (Psalm 75:10)
The Bite... La Bocca... The Mouth. This is the most famous thing about La Bocca. They say the legend began in the Middle Ages--If you told a lie with your hand in La Bocca's mouth, he would bite it off. You might have seen that famous scene in A Roman Holiday where Gregory Peck scares the hell out of Audrey Hepburn when he puts his hand in and acts like it is getting bitten off. (Click HERE to watch the scene).
Well, Lucas and Lisa and I went to pay homage to La Bocca when we were in Rome... it was one of the places Lucas wanted to see the most--until we were about 30 feet from it, when he started to get a bit worried that the legend was true. He learned that the legend was simply great fun and nothing to worry about. Besides, God blessed me with a fabulous boy who really does tell the truth all the time. He's a great son and will grow to be a great man. I'm sure of it.
Perhaps that's part of the reason I chose the Bocca della Verità as our Grand Voyage Italy mascot and logo. It reminds me of my wonderful, honest son. It also reminds me how he doubted his own virtue--something that we all should do from time to time--re-testing our values and honesty to keep us on track in life. It reminds me of our fantastic Grand Voyage throughout Italy.
The honesty part of La Bocca--whether inspired by Moses or not--is part of my reason for choosing him, too. When I write for this blog, I want to be honest about my feelings, my experiences and how I feel about the amazing things I uncovered--and have yet to uncover--along my Grand Voyage about Italy. I don't want to share things that I care little about. I want to share passions, history (the ultimate truth) and the culture that ran through my Father's veins. And the truth is, Italy isn't perfect. I'll always be truthful about that.
May my own hand be bitten off if I write something that is untrue.
My hand did come out clean, after all...
(Read about our visit to La Bocca here).
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