Basilica of Santa Maria in Cosmedin

This Basilica dates from the Byzantine era, and is home to the Bocca della Veritá and the remains of St. Valentine.

TravelCurious Tip

Queue up for the Bocca della Verità first, and then take your time exploring the church.

Byzantine Basilica

The Basilica of Santa Maria in Cosmedin is one of Rome’s older Christian churches. It is a minor basilica which was built in the 6th century AD during the Byzantine rule of Rome. The church is more simplistic in its design than many of the larger and more elaborate Roman Basilicas, but it is no less beautiful.

The church was built over the site of an ancient Temple to Hercules, near one of the main food distribution centres in Rome in the ancient Forum Boarium. This was Rome’s main cattle market on the Tiber. In keeping with the tradition of its location, the church was set up as a church for poor people where charitable distributions were given out.

The skull of St. Valentine

The bell tower of the Basilica is impressive, with seven stories of arched windows each with two tiny Roman columns supporting them. The interior of the church is even more lovely, as the name of the church implies – Cosmedin comes from the Greek kosmidion, which means 'ornate.'

The columned nave is of ancient origin, probably built in 69-81 AD in the Forum Boarium. In 200 AD an underground chapel was built for Christians, who at that time were forced to practise their faith in secrecy. This is now the crypt of the church. A side altar holds the skull of St. Valentine, for whom we celebrate an annual day of love on 14 February.

In the outer portico you will find the famous Bocca della Verità, an ancient Roman marble carving of a face which, according to legend, will bite off the hand of a liar who puts his hand in its gaping mouth. Today many tourists come to test the old myth and for a photo opportunity.

Nearby Attractions

See all attractions in Rome
Aventine Hill
Amazing vistas across Rome, beautiful roses, and a secret keyhole with a special view of St. Peter’s.
Bocca della Verità
Don’t get your hand bitten off by the Mouth of Truth!
Circus Maximus
A magnificent ancient chariot racing stadium.
Temple of Hercules Victor
The unique Temple of Hercules Victor is the oldest marble building in Rome, and one of its best preserved ancient temples.
Temple of Portunus
One of the oldest and best preserved ancient Roman temples, dedicated to the god of portals and cattle.
The Garden of Oranges
A beautiful space named for its plentiful citrus trees, with fantastic views and important Dominican history.

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