Merry Cemetery Offers a Whimsical Backdrop for Mourners

Merry cemetery detail
Merry cemetery detail
Photo credit: Adam Jones/Flickr

The idiom ‘God is in the detail’ is a useful example by which one may choose to live their life. But what about in death? Cemeteries are, by definition, a sacred resting place for the bodies of our dead. And each region, typically influenced by regional faiths, has its own methodology for dealing with the dearly departed. Take, for example, Romania’s Cimitirul Vesel, or Merry Cemetery—where it’s all about detail.

In the quaint Romanian town of Săpânţa, the local Merry Cemetery features a colorful tableau of more than 800 grave markers that manage to elicit emotions that are uncharacteristic of traditional burial grounds. Somber slate and graphite mounds are replaced with colorful wooden crosses—each depicting, in almost playful detail, the life and death of each of the town’s former residents.

Man with scales in a shop - detail of a tombstone, Merry Cemetery
Wooden cross detail, Sӑpânţa Merry Cemetery

Drawings are painted in bright, cheerful hues. At the same time, limericks and anecdotes are emblazoned across the wood in a manner designed to tap into the emotions of mourners and other visitors, encouraging them to embrace feelings of nostalgia and whimsy, while eschewing anything akin to sorrow.

Of course, sorrow is a pervasive and inevitable presence—naturally. It is, first and foremost, a site of respect and civility.

Merry Cemetery grounds in Romania
Photo credit: Dumphasizer/Flickr

The crosses were originally designed by a local resident named Stan Ioan Pătraş, who used great detail and symbolism to bolster his work (green represented life, red for passion, etc.) After he died in 1977, his apprentice took over and continues to carve the cemetery’s vibrant markers to this day.

To give you an idea of the tone on display at the Merry Cemetery, here is one of the more famous epigraphs:

“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…”