Basilica/ Church of Santa Maria in Cosmedin

"Basilica/ Church of Santa Maria in Cosmedin" submitted by RomeTour Editorial Team and last updated on Saturday 2nd July 2011

This is a beautiful church worldly famous for a round stone mask called "Bocca della Verita' " (Mouth of Truth) (pictured below) located in its portico, but there are so many other things about it that could attract interest. First of all, its bell-tower, the most beautiful Romanesque bell-tower in Rome. It has seven storeyes and colored majolica decorations. It was built in the 12th century, its height is 34,20 meters, and it conserves a bell of 1289.

Basilica/ Church of Santa Maria in Cosmedin
The name of the Basilica/ Church of Santa Maria in Cosmedin (Basilica di S.Maria in Cosmedin) reminds about the Byzantine influence in Rome in 7th-9th centuries, when all the zone around was occupied by the Greek colony, and the governors from the Eastern Roman Empire settled in the palaces on the Palatine Hill.

All the churches of the zone were bearing the Greek names or dedications to Greek (Orthodox) saints. Church S.Maria in Cosmedin was assigned to Greek refugees driven from Constantinople by the iconoclastic persecutions, and had probably taken its name from a great monastery of Constantinople named "cosmidion" or from a Greek word meaning "decoration", referring to the embellishments of it. Chiesa di S.Maria in Cosmedin was born out of a deacony (an assistance organization with which the Church, starting from the 6th-7th centuries gradually substituted the civic authorities), which in the 6th century settled here over the ancient constructions, that are believed to be former "statio annonae", i.e. granary.
round stone mask called "Bocca della Verita' " (Mouth of Truth) in Santa Maria in Cosmedin inside the Santa Maria in Cosmedin
It was compound of different parts and buildings and had a big loggia, where the deacony settled. In the 8th century pope Hadrian I ordered to make of it a church, and in the 12th century pope Callistus II continued the work of rearrangement till turning all the construction in a basilica, which we can see now.

Due to the decorations that were brought, the building also got the name "Cosmedin" which can be translated into Gree in “decoration”. Restored and remodeled numerous times along centuries, the church’s interior shows some evocative decorative elements from C.VIII and XI, such as the Women’s Gallery and the "Schola Cantorum", while the exterior embodies the bell-tower in seven floors of mullioned and three-mullioned windows, one of the nicest ones in town showing a Romanesque style.


Exterior includes a portico containing: "Bocca della Verita' " (Mouth of Truth), originally a cover of the sewer located in ancient Temple dedicated to Hercules on the left of the church; a beautiful door by Giovanni da Venezia (9th century); and a tomb of Callistus II, model for future burial monuments of the 13th-14th centuries.


Interior has a nave (34m long, 8m large and 11m high) and two aisles. On both sides of the main entrance are great Corinthian columns of the "loggia" of the 4th century. High up on the walls are the remains of the 11th century frescoes. The schola contorum, baldacchino, screen, paschal candelabrum, episcopal throne and pavement (1123) are the work of the Cosmati family (marble sculptors).
interior of Church of Santa Maria in Cosmedin
The sacristy preserves a beautiful mosaic (705) (pictured) brought here from destroyed oratory of John VII at St Peter's. In the right aisle there is a Cappella del Coro projected by C.Maratta, who also executed four statues of "Virtu' ". Here the image of the 13th century "Teotokos", or mother of God, is venerated.

The interior is evocative and severe, radically recovered in its original shapes during C.VIII. It has three naves divided up by four pilasters and eighteen antique columns. The porch, added during C.XII, hosts the famous Bocca della Verità, very cherished in popular tradition for the popular belief that the mouth could bite the hand of whoever would not express the truth.

In course of excavation works beneath the church in 1893 was discovered the base of an ancient construction, demolished to give space for the church in the 8th century. It could be identified with the sacred Ara di Ercole (Altar of Hercules), erected according to a legend by a shepherd Evandrus, who met Hercules right on this site. It should be noticed that all zone around Chiesa di S.Maria in Cosmedin was particularly dedicated to veneration of Hercules.

Basilica/ Church of Santa Maria in Cosmedin
Piazza della Bocca della Verità 18 (Via di Ponte Rotto)
00186, Rome, Lazio, Italy
Zone: Rione Ripa (Circo Massimo - Bocca Verità - Aventino) (Roma centro)
Basilica/ Church of Santa Maria in Cosmedin is Shown By "Map K Zone" As "48"

Hours: Open 10:00-17:00. Mass times: Sunday: 10.30. During the celebration of Holy Mass is not possible to visit the church.
Telephone: 0039 06 6787759

As you visit 'Basilica/ Church of Santa Maria in Cosmedin' you may also like following articles . . .

Piazza Bocca della Verità and Its Fountain

Piazza Bocca della Verità is one of the most characteristic places in Rome corresponding to the Foro Boario, one of the most beautiful buildings of Republican

Palazzo Pantanella at Piazza Bocca della Verità

It was built in 1878-1881 as a seat of the Societa' dei Molini e Pastificio Pantanella (Society of Mills and Bread-making Pantanella). It was an appropriate

Basilica/ Church of Santa Maria in Trastevere

This Church of Santa Maria in Trastevere (Basilica/ Chiesa di S.Maria in Trastevere) occupies the 5th place in the hierarchy of Roman churches after St Peter's

Church/ Basilica of Santa Croce in Gerusalemme (Holy Cross in Jerusalem)

It is of the "Seven Churches" of the Jubilee pilgrimage and is one of the most sacred places of the capital of the Christianity. It was probably Constantine

Temple of Ercole Vincitore or Vesta (Hercules the Winner)

This is the most ancient marble temple in Rome; it has circular plan surrounded by 20 Corinthian columns. The temple was built in the end of the 2nd century b.