Santa Maria in Cosmedin, Rome The basilica of Santa Maria in Cosmedin is one of the best examples of medieval ecclesiastic architecture in Rome. History and Architecture of the Church First built in the 6th century, the church of Santa Maria in Cosmedin sits at the Forum Boarium, presumably at the site of the ancient Temple of Hercules Pompeianus. It differed much from the many Byzantine structures that surrounded it and was soon referred to as the Santa Maria in Schola della Greca, not only because of its design but because Greek merchants in Rome used the building and Greek monks served there. In the 8th century, Pope Adrian I recommended that the church be rebuilt, and included in the design three naves and a magnificent portico. However, the church looks as it does today because of rebuilding that occurred in the 9th and 12th centuries, when the clock tower and arcade were added. Interior The interior work done by the Cosmati – a Roman family of skillful architects, sculptors, and tile workers - is incredible. The pavement, choir enclosure, pulpit, the twisted paschal candlestick, and the altar screen were all done by the family in the 12th and 13th centuries. Of special note is the canopy, done in Gothic style with Cosmatesque decoration, dated to 1294. A rare 8th century mosaic sits in front of the high altar and, today, another 8th century mosaic of the Adoration of the Magi is displayed in the sacristy.turkeyarena.com In the early 18th century, many Baroque elements were added to Santa Maria in Cosmedin, including a new façade, designed by Guiseppe Sardi and added in 1781. However, the Baroque additions were removed around the turn of the 20th century and the church’s original look was restored. Most agree that it remains one of the most beautiful of Rome’s smaller churches. Bocca Della Verita While this amazing church is ripe with reasons to visit – mainly to view the work of the Cosmati – many people come to see the famous Bocca Della Verita, or “mouth of truth.” Located in the portico of the church, this manhole of sorts (sometimes referred to as a drain cover) is thought to be part of an ancient Roman fountain and the face is believed to be that of one of several possible pagan gods. Over the years, the Bocca Della Verita has assumed the role of lie detector. Beginning in the Middle Ages, it was believed that if one told a lie with his hand in the mouth of the sculpture, it would be bitten off. The sculpture appeared in the 1953 movie Roman Holiday, which made it more recognizable.