Cementerio de Săpânţa, Rumania

The Merry Cemetery

In Săpânţa, Romania, there lies a very different kind of cemetery. Rather than the usual dark and ominous crypts and tombstones reminding us of our eventual demise, the Merry Cemetery chooses to remember the past lives of its residents with brightly painted tombstones and even more colorful stories about the people themselves.

The idea for the unusual crosses was started by 14 year old town resident Stan Ioan Pătraşe. By 1935, Pătraş began carving clever verse and ironic poems about the deceased, as well as painting the crosses with the deceased’s image, often depicting their manner of death.

Over 600 beautifully carved wooden crosses display the life stories, personal descriptions and final moments of almost everyone who has died in the town of Săpânţa. The illustrations show everything from soldiers being shot and beheaded to a poor soul being struck by a car.

The epitaphs reveal surprising truths and a fair amount of good humor. For example one cross reads, “Underneath this heavy cross. Lies my mother in law… Try not to wake her up. For if she comes back home. She’ll bite my head off.”


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