The Merry Cemetery of Săpânţa

Săpânţa is a commune in Maramureş County in northern Romania, 15 kilometers northwest of Sighet and just south of the Tisa River.

The Merry Cemetery (Romanian: Cimitirul Vesel) is famous for its colourful tombstones with naïve paintings describing, in an original and poetic manner, the persons that are buried there as well as scenes from their lives. The Merry Cemetery became an open-air museum and a national tourist attraction.

The unusual feature of this cemetery is that it diverges from the prevalent belief, culturally shared within European societies - a belief that views death as something indelibly solemn. Connections with the local Dacian culture have been made, a culture whose philosophical tenets presumably vouched for the immortality of the soul and the belief that death was a moment filled with joy and anticipation for a better life. The cemetery's origins are linked with the name of Stan Ioan Pătraş (1908-1977), a local artist who sculpted the first tombstone crosses. In 1935, Pătraş carved the first epitaph and, as of 1960s, more than 800 of such oak wood crosses came into sight. Here is an example of unusual epitaph:


...Să vă mai spun una bună
Mi-o plăcut ţuica de prună
Cu prietenii la birt
Uitam şi de ce-am venit


...Now I will tell you a good one
I kind of liked the plum ţuica
With my friends at the pub
I used to forget what I came for