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):
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?
- The Merry Cemetery on Atlas Obscura
- Photos by Franz Bauer
- Photo gallery of Săpânţa-Cimitirul Vesel
- Sapanta Cemetery on A Morbid Fascination
- Flickr image by Nagy Bela
- Flickr slideshow by Chewbud
- Photo album from Sapanta, Romania