The Merry Cemetery (Romanian: Cimitirul Vesel 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.
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:
Since 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 say
All along my life
I meant no harm to anyone
But did good as much as I could
To anyone who asked
Oh, my poor World
Because It was hard living in it
Under 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!