Rome's Mouth of Truth, the Statue That Bites the Hands off Liars

Photo of Grace Beard
Assistant Editor24 April 2017

Leaning against the wall of a small, nondescript church in Rome is a 1300 kg marble face, which is believed to be an ancient lie detector.

The statue attracts hundreds of tourists every day who want to have a go at sticking their hands in its cavernous mouth. There’s a long-standing superstition that if they were to tell a lie, their hand would be bitten off.

The theory seems to stem from a ritual practised in the Middle Ages, where allegedly people on trial would testify with their hand in the disc’s opening. Their hand would then be chopped off by an axeman if they were found to be lying.

There are multiple theories about the origins of the carving, none of which are set in stone. Regardless of its enigmatic history, the marble face continues to pull intrepid crowds hoping to pass the world’s creepiest lie detector test.

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