Saturday, June 25, 2011

Cimitirul Vesel

I've recently learned about a unique and curious cemetery in Săpânţa, Romania.* Cimitirul Vesel translates to "Merry Cemetery," and the artwork and epitaphs will surely evoke a smile. The cemetery (video here) has become one of the most popular tourist attractions in rural Romania, with tour buses unloading international visitors hourly. The tradition was begun by a peasant grave carver named Stan Ioan Pătraş (1908-1977) in the 1930s. Upon his death, the work was taken over by his assistant Dumitru Pop, who has 3 apprentices of his own. The 800+ crosses are carved out of oak and stand about 5' high. They are topped by 2 small beams forming a pointed roof. Portraits of the deceased often appear on both sides - one showing the person in life, and the other showing his or her cause of death. Each panel is surrounded by geometric designs with a symbolic color scheme: yellow = fertility, red = passion, green = life, and black = untimely death. The background is always blue, the color of hope and freedom.

Many of the carved grave markers celebrate the fickle nature of death: machines just happen to blow up, planes accidentally fall out of the sky, and cars just naturally tend to hit people. Consider this verse on the marker of a young girl struck by a cab (1st image of the 3 car accidents depicted above):

Burn in hell, you damn taxi
That came from Sibiu.
As large as Romania is
You couldn't find another place to stop,
Only in front of my house to kill me?

To see more photographs, take a look at the following:
*Thanks for the idea, Kristina!

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