The Merry Cemetery is a cemetery in the village of Săpânța, Maramureş county, Romania. It is famous for its colourful tombstones with naïve paintings describing, in an original and poetic manner, the people who 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 (see also Zalmoxianism).
A collection of the epitaphs from the Merry Cemetery exist in a 2017 volume called Crucile de la Săpânța, compiled by author Roxana Mihalcea.
The cemetery’s origins are linked with the name of Stan Ioan Pătraş, a local artist who sculpted the first tombstone crosses. In 1935, Pătraș carved the first epitaph and, as of the 1960s, more than 800 of such oak wood crosses came into sight. The inscription on his tombstone cross says:
|RomanianDe cu tînăr copilaș|
Io am fost Stan Ion Pătraș
Să mă ascultaț oameni buni
Ce voi spune nu-s minciuniCîte zile am trăit
Rău la nime n-am dorit
Dar bine cît-am putut
Orișicine mia cerutVai săraca lumea mea
Că greu am trăit în ea
|EnglishSince I was a little boy|
I was known as Stan Ion Pătraş
Listen to me, fellows
There are no lies in what I am going to sayAll along my life
I meant no harm to anyone
But did good as much as I could
To anyone who askedOh, my poor World
Because It was hard living in it
|RomanianSub această cruce grea|
Zace biata soacră-mea
Trei zile de mai trăia
Zăceam eu și cetea ea.
Voi care treceți pă aici
Incercați să n-o treziți
Că acasă dacă vine
Iarăi cu gura pă mine
Da așa eu m-oi purta
Că-napoi n-a înturna
Stai aicea dragă soacră-mea
|EnglishUnder this heavy cross|
Lies my poor mother in-law
Three more days should she have lived
I would lie, and she would read (this cross).
You, who here are passing by
Not to wake her up please try
Cause’ if she comes back home
She’ll criticise me more.
But I will surely behave
So she’ll not return from grave.
Stay here, my dear mother in-law!
Read an article about other beautiful place in this area – Wooden Churches of Maramures