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Mouth of Truth

Mouth of Truth
Mouth of Truth

Church of St. Mary in Cosmedin

This church is supposed to be built on the remains of the Temple of Patrician Pudicity, into which none but the Roman patricians could enter. Of this temple, only eight pillars are remaining; five near the front of the church, one in the sacristy and two on the left side of the entrance; they are of Grecian marble, of the Corinthian order, and are seven feet in circumference; from the beauty of the workmanship, it is conjectured they were made in the time when the arts flourished.

Pope St. Adrian I. repaired this church in 7/2, and ornamented it very magnificently, from which it took the name in Cosmedin, a Greek word signifying ornament. It is now vulgarly called Bocca delta Verità (mouth of Truth) on account of a large round piece of marble, shaped somewhat like ahead, with eyes, and open-mouthed, placed under the portico : the common tradition is this, that the hand was placed there in swearing, and that whoever swore falsely, was unable to withdraw it. Some have supposed, this marble to be the image of Jupiter Ammon, on which the hand was laid in taking an oath; but it seems more probably to have been the mouth of some aqueduct or fountain.

The interior of the church is in the Gothic style, it has three naves, divided by twelve antique marble pillars; the pavement is composed of different hard stones. There are two ancient pulpits, and an old pontifical marble seat in the choir: also an image of the Virgin, which was brought from Greece. The great altar is isolated, and decorated with a canopy sustained by four pillars of Egyptian granite, and an antique urn, likewise of red granite.

On the square before this church is a fine fountain, and the Temple of Vesta, now Church of St. Mary of the Sun.

This is supposed to be the temple of Vesta, built by Numa Pompilius, on the shore of the Tiber, and which, having suffered in the conflagration under Nero, was repaired by Vespasian or Domitian his son.

This edifice was very magnificent; the external wall of the circular cell is entirely of Grecian marble, so finely joined together, that it appears all of one piece. The nineteen fluted Corinthian pillars of Parian marble on the outside, are raised on some steps, and form a circular portico, 156 feet in circumference ; one pillar, the entablature, and some other ornaments are wanting. The diameter of the cell is twenty-six, that of the pillars is nearly three feet, and their height with the base and head, is thirty-two. As soon as this elegant temple was converted into a church, it was dedicated to the Virgin, under the name of St. Mary of the sun.

The great drain, or sewer, which we mentioned, near the arch of Janus, here discharges itsel Into the Tiber.

Almost opposite this edifice is the Temple of Fortuna Virile, now Church of St. Mary of Egypt

This fine and very ancient temple was built by Servius Tullius VI., king of Rome, out of gratitude to Fortune, on account of his having been born a slave, and afterwards raised to royalty. It was rebuilt during the time of the arts, in an oblong form. It is of travertine, and is surrounded with eighteen pillars of the same stone ; six of which formed a portico in front. The other columns are on the sides, they are of the Ionic order, and twenty-six feet high; they are covered with stucco, and half enchased in the wall, which is also of travertine; the columns sustain an entablature, adorned with children, heads of oxen, and candelabras ; these ornaments are all of stucco, but are greatly damaged by time. This temple stands on a high base which has only lately been discovered.

Under Pope John VIII., about the year 872, this ancient temple was converted into a church, and dedicated to the Virgin. The great altarpiece, representing St. Mary of Egypt, is one of the finest works of Frederic Zuccari. In this church is a model of the Holy Sepulchre at Jerusalem.

Opposite this church is an old edifice, adorned with various fine fragments of antiquity ; it is commonly (but without any reason) called Pilate's house. The inscription on the street-door says, that it belonged to Nicholas, son of Crescenzio and Theodora, in the 14th century; and not as is by some imagined, to Nicholas di Lorenzo, commonly called Cola de Rienzo, tribune of the Roman people.

Arch of Janus Quadrifront

It is the only remaining arch of those which th* ancients called Jani, because they had four arcades alike. It is supposed this one was made by Domitian.

This celebrated monument, which has but lately been discovered, having been under ground, is composed of large pieces of Grecian marble; each of the four Sides is adorned with twelve niches, which were divided by columns, and contained statues. This arch is full of holes, like many other ancient **difices, occasioned by the Barbarians in the dark ages, who took out the hooks and pivots of bronze that united the stones. All the brick-work on this arch was built by the Frangipani family, during the civil wars.

It is worthy of notice, that in this place was formerly a marsh, formed of the waters of the Tiber, which extended from the foot of the capital to mount Palatine, and the great circus; and as it was generally crossed in a boat, it was called velabrum a vehendxs ratibus.

A new Picture of Rome, and its Environs, in the form of an Itinerary - Mariano Vasi - 1819

Church of St. George, in Velabro

It is supposed to have been built in the sixth century, on the ruins of the justiciary court of Tiberius Sempronius, instituted by him, for judging the causes of .the merchants of the Forum Boarium. This ancient church was rebuilt by Pope St. Zachary. It has three naves divided by fifteen pillars; of which eleven are granite, and four fluted violet marble.

A new Picture of Rome, and its Environs, in the form of an Itinerary - Mariano Vasi - 1819