The worldwide fame of Sapanta is due to the unique cemetery that has become an important attraction. Some days the throngs of tourists that assault the cemetery with their cameras ready make one wonder if it really is possible to rest in peace here!
One famous epitaph:
Underneath this heavy cross
Lies my mother-in-law poor
Had she lived three days more
I would be here and she would read
You that are passing by
Try not to wake her up
For if she comes back home
She’ll bite my head off
But I will act in the way
That she will not return
Stay here my dear
The village of Săpânța, located just 4 kilometres south of the Ukrainian border is world-famous for its original "Merry Cemetery": a special kind of graveyard, with wooden crosses painted in vivid colors. A particular blue, called „Sapanta blue" rules over all the other colors.
Stan Ioan Patras, the author of this cemetery, carved the first cross in 1935. He died in 1977 and his creation was continued to this day and carried on by Patras's apprentice, Dumitu Pop.
Each cross is different: the carved images naively catch one of the deceased lifetime's characteristic attitudes, while the epitaphs are short poems, deprived of the usual cliches and full of substance, written in the first person like a confession of the deceased himself.
The original character of the cemetery is first of all suggested by its name: Cimitirul Vesel that means The Merry Cemetery. This paradoxical name is due to the vivid colours of the crosses and the amusing or satirical epitaphs carved on them. It is said that this joyful attitude towards death is a legacy of the Dacians who believed in the immortality of the soul and that death was only a passage to a better life. They did not see death as a tragic end, but as a chance to meet with the supreme god, Zalmoxis.
The cemetery dates back to the mid-1930's and is the creation of Stan Ioan Patras artist, sculptor, painter and poet rolled in one. Patras used all his skills to create this masterpiece. For half a century the master created hundreds of wooden crosses, carved in a distinctive style, so famous today.