The Merry Cemetery in Sapanta, Maramureş County, is known both in Romania and throughout the world due to the unique way of celebrating death.
But what is behind this unusual cemetery, who thought about the eccentric form of the crosses, how to have a happy inspiration and how is the way the cheerful crosses are made are things that are less known.
The one who had this unusual idea was Stan Ioan Patras, sculptor, poet and painter. In 1935, when he designed the first cross that help him to become famous, he was just an anonymous sculptor in Sapanta.
Contrary to the popular cultures, which treats death with sadness and mourning, Stan Ioan Patras saw the death with cheerful eyes. He painted the crosses in strong, vivid colors and widened their vertical side, so they can have space for humorous phrases. In other words, he offered an entirely different perspective about death.
Inspired by the Dacians belives.
It seems that this way of looking at death has its roots in the Dacian culture. They believed that death was just a way to reach their god, Zamolxe, and that is why they treated that moment as an occasion of joy and celebration.
From 1935 until his death in 1977, Stan Ioan Patras created about 700 crosses, propelling this cemetery to the rank it is valued today – a tourist attraction of international interest.
The wood used for the creation of these crosses is exclusively oak. After cutting, it is processed and left to dry for 4-5 years. It is only after this drying period, which is to give the crosses a much longer life, when the actual sculpture begins.
The colors in the Merry Cemetery in Sapanta are intense and bright. On all crosses, without any exception, you can find the blue background. It is a color specific from the area, inherited from generation to generation called “Blue of Sapanta”. Other predominant colors are red, yellow, green and black, colors that are perfectly integrated in the Maramureş symbolism: red – passion; yellow – fertility; green – life; black – death.
The epitaphs written on the Crosses of the Merry Cemetery keep alive and unaltered the memory of those who are not anymore here. In this village, the pleasures, addictions, defects, troubles or joys of every inhabitant are not hidden by the sight of the world, on the contrary, they show all of them, even after death, in a transparent and humorous way, to all those who cross the threshold of the cemetery.