“Under this heavy cross
Lies my poor mother in-law
Three more days she would 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!”
This is, surely, one of the funniest writing on the grave from the well known Merry cemetery from Sapanta village in Maramures couty, Romania. This cemetery is in tops of the most unusual and incredible cemeteries in the world and it’s the second time I’ve visited this place this is why you’ll see pictures from different days. Each tomb cross from this graveyard has a hand painting and a simple writing about the deceased’s life and death. Even though in European societies the view of death is sorrowful, it is speculated that the idea behind the merry cemetery lies in Romanian’s ancestors – the Dacians beliefs, that the soul is immortal and that the death should be considered a happy passing. Most of the crosses have two painted sides, one showing the deceased’s life, and the other side is showing either the way they died or some quirk that made them the talk of the village. Most of the villagers from this region are very poor and live a hard life, compensating the happiness with too much alcohol, this vice is on top of their dying reasons, along with car accidents..if you’ll visit the place you’ll understand why. The sinuous roads along with the lack of sidewalks have ended many children’s and even adult’s lives. If you don’t understand Romanian, you’ll have to settle for less information, texts are not translated, but I’ve seen some Chinese, English and other foreign tourists that were really funny trying to figure out the meaning of the paintings, but some of the times these even tell you more then the texts themselves. There are even drawings and writings that have debatable, mystifying meanings or horrifying drawings. Like the a man that was shot and beheaded or the naked lady with wings, a heart and 2 man faces on sides.
Stan Ioan Patras is a local artist and the creator of the merry cemetery. His first epitaph was carved in 1935 and by 1960, more than 800 of such oak wood crosses have been created. His grave can also be found among the ones he has carved and his work has been carried on by Pop family from this village.
All of the crosses are painted with a main blue color, very appreciated by the locals and similar to the painting used for their traditional houses. Even nowadays each grave is made in the same way as Stan Patras carved them long ago, their fresh paint makes it easier to understand the writing , but the old ones, vanished by the time and rain, give you a hard time to puzzle out the, even so, improperly written lines in their maramuresan dialect.