The Merry Cemetery

The Merry Cemetery (Cimitirul Vesel) in Săpânța, Romania, is the place where those who depart from this world prefer to do so in a light-hearted tone. The wooden crosses on the tombs are painted in bright colours, predominantly in blue, bearing an image and a few rhyming lines, most often with a comical content, relating to the deceased’s life and their image in the memory of their families and in that of the community.

The first tombs were adorned in this manner in 1935, at the initiative of the folk craftsman Stan Ioan Patras, who wanted to add a humorous note to these inherently sad goodbyes. It is believed that he took inspiration from the Dacian culture, of which it is believed that they celebrated death instead of grieving it. The Merry Cemetery was somewhat of a secret to the outside world until the later period of his life, in the early 1970s, when a French journalist discovered the place and popularized it.

Today, the tradition is carried on by his apprentice, Dumitru Pop Tincu, and the Merry Cemetery now counts over 800 bright-coloured crosses, sculpted from oak wood. Some of them are painted on both sides, with one side containing epitaphs about the life of the deceased, and the other one containing illustrations about how they died.

merry cemetery sapanta

On the tomb of Stan Ioan Pătraș is written the following epitaph:

Ever since I was a little kid
Stan Ion Pătraș was my name
Listen to me, my good people
Because I will tell no lie

All the days I have lived
I wished no harm on anyone
Only good, as much as I could
No matter for whom

Oh, this poor world of mine
Living through it was so hard

Another famous epitaph is:

Underneath this heavy cross
Lies my poor mother-in-law
Three more days she would have lived
I would die, and she would read (this cross)
You, who here are passing by
Not to wake her up please try
For if she comes back home
She’ll criticize me even more
But I will behave so well
That she won’t return from hell
Stay here, my dear mother-in-law.

Since Săpânța is a very small town, there isn’t much room for secrecy. Dumitru Pop said that no one ever got upset about the artwork and that the families actually want the real truth to be depicted on the tombstone. He says that the most common problem he faces is the fact that it can get repetitive: “Their lives were the same, but they want their epitaphs to be different from the others.”

Visiting hours:

Daily from 10:00 to 18:00

Ticket Prices:

Adults: 4 lei
Children 2 lei

Photography fee: 4 lei
Filming fee: 10 lei