A Unique Cemetery With Poems and Jokes Written on Tombstones
A well-known cemetery in the village of Săpânța, Maramureş county, Romania, called Merry Cemetery, is a cemetery that is famous across the world for its unique way of looking upon death. It is not a sad event, but it is a celebration of life that has ended.
Distinguished for its colourful tombstones, the naïve paintings on it describe the people entombed there including scenes from their lives in a poetic and original manner.
Stan Ioan Patras was the man who started the tradition of these crosses in 1935. He was a woodworker, a poet and a painter.
For over 50 years, Ion Patras designed hundreds of crosses and tombstones.
Patras carved the crosses out of oak and painted them blue, sprinkling in bits of color like red, yellow or black. He painted the crosses in order to protect them from rain and frost, thus making them last longer.
In the upper part, there is a painting that depicts the person who passed away, while underneath, is a poem. Patras would usually write these little poems himself after getting to know the deceased through his/her family. As of the 1960s, more than 800 of such oak wood crosses came into sight.
An exceptional feature of this burial ground is that it differs from the prevalent belief which is culturally shared within European societies – something that views death as indelibly solemn.
Stan Ioan Pătraş carved the crosses until his death in 1977. This is his tombstone.
And this is the poem carved on his tombstone:
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
But some of the epigraphs are often darkly funny:
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 her grave.
Stay here, my dear mother-in-law!