The name of the cemetery comes from the multitude of colorful tomb crosses and satirical poems which are emblazoned on the tombs. The fame of Săpânța town comes from its renowned Merry Cemetery that has become a major tourist attraction.
Legend has it that the cheerful attitude in the face of death is a custom of the Dacians who believed in eternal life and death for them was just passing to another world. They did not see death as a tragic end, but as a chance to meet Zamolxe, the supreme god.
The cemetery dates back to the mid 1930s and is the creation of folk artist Stan Ion Patras, sculptor, painter and poet at the same time. Patras’s creativity has revealed this monumental and famous artwork. Over 50 years, the artist has created hundreds of wooden crosses emblazoned in this characteristic style. After his death in 1977 his work was continued by his apprentice, Dumitru Pop Tincu.
The material used for the crosses is oak, which is writable by hand after it having been cut and dried. At the top of each cross there is a bas-relief with a scene from the life of the deceased. The scenes are simple and we might even say naive style but villagers bring the past alive, presenting a relevant aspect of everyone’s life. They present women spinning wool, weaving carpets or making bread, men who cut wood or till in the garden, shepherds with their flocks, wood workers, musicians and many other traditional occupations.
After the cross is carved it is usually painted with a blue background, the so-called “Blue of Săpânţa”. The scenes are painted using vibrant colors: yellow, red, white and green.
No cross is finished without a short poem, a few simple rhymes, between seven and 17. The epitaphs are sincere, spontaneous and written in the first person – the deceased’s messages to the living. The style is lyrical but satire is found frequently. Each poem contains the name of the deceased and an essential aspect of the life of that person.
With their drawings and poems Stan Ioan Patras and Dumitru Pop Tincu managed to recreate an entire village and gave people a second life after death. The more than 800 painted crosses, which constitute a vast archive preserve the history of the inhabitants of Săpânţa.
Photo source: Picture 1: agerpres.ro; Picture 2: vezi-lumea.blogspot.ro; Picture 3: infopensiuni.ro; Picture 4: descopera.com; Picture 5: roncea.ro; Picture 6: i-tour.ro; Picture 7: adypetrisor.blogspot.ro