Maramures, the land of the famous wooden churches, hides a one of a kind place of rest for the dead, the Merry Cemetery. Very close to the main attractions from Sighetu Marmatiei, you’ll find a unique approach over death, a cemetery full of colors and anecdotes that will easily put a smile on your face.
Stan Ion Patras carved the first oak cross from the Merry Cemetery of Sapanta back in 1930 with his own hands, out of love for people and life. He painted them in a particular shade of blue that nowadays is known as ‘Sapanta Blue’. He believed it was the color of the sky over his home, meaning hope and freedom.
Each cross is painted using this shade of blue, decorated with traditional patterns and an image that, along with a poem or epitaph, brings some light to the past life of the dead. Some of them may seem insensitive or indiscreet, but their purpose is to portray life as it is, with good and bad, with sins or tragic accidents, with funny stories and happy moments.
You’ll see people portrayed drinking, cooking or working the field. You’ll even see, in some cases, the scenes of their death, for example, a young man struck by lightning, allegedly punished for working the field on Saint John’s day as the poem suggests.
Among all the crosses carved in his lifetime, Stan Ion Patras made his own as well. When he passed away, he left the responsibility of carrying the tradition to his apprentice – Dumitru Pop – along with the secret of the ‘Sapanta Blue’. Currently, there are over 800 hand-made crosses and their number continues to grow as the tradition continues from master to apprentice.
The Merry Cemetery, with its original approach to death and life, is a vivid image of the diverse attractions you can find in Maramures. This part of Romania is more than worth an entire vacation, in fact, you’ll find that not even one full week is enough to cover everything there is to do and see.
Take a ride with the steam train Mocanita through the forests of Maramures.
Visit the wooden churches that made it on the UNESCO World Heritage List.