The Merry Cemetery (Romanian: Cimitirul Vesel) in the small village of Sepintsa (Săpânţa)in northern Romania is quite unusual. A national tourist attraction, this local graveyard is known for its colorful tombstones decorated by a wooden marker with naïve paintings and painted polychrome scenes, describing, in an original and poetic manner, the persons that are buried there. Most of these markings were originally created by Ioan Stan Patras.
This work of art started in 1935, when the 14-year-old boy named John Petrish Stan, a local artist, who carved the first tombstone crosses. As of 1960s, more than 800 of such oak wood epitaph came into sight. began to carve crosses for the local cemetery. He would wander through the streets of Sapanta, taking notes about his neighbors.
When they died, he would have another chance to tell his tales through its colorful crosses and a darkly-humorous poem — from their drinking habits to their adulterous relationships. There’s no point in hiding secrets in this community, so people’s lives are captured honestly in their epitaphs.
The epitaphs are written in a local dialect. The crosses are made out of oak and painted with symbolic colors. Each cross stands about five feet high.
Also, colors symbolizes certain thing; the red color represent passion, green - life, yellow color - fertility, and black – death. Thus, the black bird symbolizes a tragic and sudden death. Patras used a specific blue as background color which to him represented hope, freedom, and the sky over his hometown.
As death is catching up with him, he passed on his skills to Dumitru Popa. Before he died in 1977, he carved out his own cross and left a funny but touching message for the world. Patras created more than 600 crosses over a period of 40 years. Translated in English, here is Stan Ion Patras message:
Since I was a little boy
I was known as Stan Ion Pătraş
Listen to me, fellows
There are no lies in what I am going to say
All along my life
I meant no harm to anyone
But did good as much as I could
To anyone who asked
Oh, my poor World
Because It was hard living in it