Merry Cemetery of Sapanta
The Merry Cemetery is a unique and fascinating cemetery located in Northern Romania in the famous Maramures region.
How can a cemetery be famous?
Because this one has a cheerful approach to death. The tombstones in Sapanta Cemetery are made out of colourful crosses and naive paintings representing scenes from the life of the departed, while also telling lively stories with a touch of irony about the life of the deceased.
It is probably the most famous touristic attraction of that area and was ranked at the top of European cemeteries and the second in the world after „The Valley of The Kings”.
Its uniqueness comes from the different approach it takes - whereas the popular belief is that death is a sad event, the cemetery tries to make death a natural part of life - a belief which comes mainly from the Dacians, who believed in eternal life and for which death was merely a passage to another world.
The first cross of the cemetery appeared in 1931 and in 1935 the first obituary written in the 1st person singular. Starting 1960, the entire cemetery was populated with around 800 similar colourful crosses and cheerful obituaries, making the cemetery an open air museum and a touristic attraction.
The wooden crosses are all similar - each of them has a bas-relief on the upper part which illustrates a scene of the life of the deceased and the lower end has a written part which often describes the life the deceased, more then once illustrating these events with lots of humour and irony.
Sometimes, these scenes illustrated the person’s occupation: forester, hunter, carpenter, cook or farmer. Women were pictured baking bread, weaving carpets or spinning wool. If the person had died in an unusual way (by accident), the painting on the cross illustrated the type of accident.
Romanian Friend Tip: If you are in the area during August, don’t miss the “The Long Way to The Merry Cemetery” festival, a place where local musicians, craftsmen and dancers gather and make the festival an authentic experience. You can find more info about the festival here.
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