Before I even came to Romania, I was looking forward to visiting the Merry Cemetery. Tina told me about it and I got so excited! She just didn’t know exactly where it was, so I didn’t either.
While we were in Maramureş, we had the opportunity to go the Merry Cemetery in Săpânţa, which was my favorite part of the trip! I was looking forward to it because Tina had told me that it was a cemetery where the tombstones had pictures of how the person had died, and also that it was colorful and beautiful. I was definitely not disappointed.
I have learned that Romanians tend to be very religious. Our tour guide told us that “if the priest asks people to give money to the church, they give more than he asks for. But then they are asked to give money to fix the roads, and nobody gives anything.”
The Merry Cemetery has blue tombstones, symbolic of heaven and hell both being in the sky, which is blue. The blue color of the tombstones characterizes the religious devotion of most Romanians.
The colorful atmosphere of the Merry Cemetery strays from the traditional view of death as something solemn. Instead, it views death as something to be welcome, leading you to another life.
While in Maramureş, I noticed that intricate and detailed woodwork is very popular, and I also had the opportunity to visit Teodor, a local woodcarver. The tombstones here are made of wood, and each of them has a picture of the deceased at the top.
If the person died in an accident, then the picture is of how they died.
If they didn’t die due to an accident, then a major event of their life, or their occupation, is depicted.
This is the tombstone of the man that started the Merry Cemetery:
The tombstone is carved by a wood carver that lives in the village (similar to Teodor, whom we met) that the deceased is from.
At the bottom of the long with an epitaph that is either humorous or informative of the person’s life. The family does not choose what is put in the epitaph – that is the wood carver’s decision. The tight-knit culture of the small villages in this area is displayed in the fact that the family never objects to what the local wood carver writes on the tombstones. Everyone in the village knows one another, and they know that what it says is true.
And this one is right next to the creator’s. It is his mother-in-law. This is an example of the humorous epitaphs:
Sub aceasta cruce grea
Zace biata soacra-mea
Trei zile de mai traia
Zaceam eu si cetea ea.
Voi care treceti pa aici
Incercati sa n-o treziti
Ca acasa daca vine
Iarai cu gura pa mine
Da asa eu m-oi purta
Ca-napoi n-a inturna
Stai aicea draga soacra-mea
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!
Here is my one of my favorites – a teacher!
The church was under construction.
There was a service going on inside, so we stepped inside and saw, but didn’t feel it was appropriate to take pictures. But we did get a picture of some people in traditional Romanian clothing before they went into the church!
Here are some other ones:
I am currently working on translating some of the tombstones on my own. The translation above our tour guide told us, and then I found it online. However, I took pictures of the ones I really want to translate. It is hard, but I’m getting there!
As Hannah said, I was probably the most excited tourist that the Merry Cemetery has ever encountered!