Headstones are disappearing from the world only "fun" cemetery of Szaplonca

Friday, November 29, 2013

The priceless headstones are disappearing from the world only "merry" cemetery of Szaplonca that is also a world heritage site writes the “Krónika” newspaper on Friday.

According to the article, Máramarossziget prosecutor's office launched an investigation of aggravated theft and vandalism after the Romanian Ministry of Culture, the county's education board of directors, and the police surveyed the damage in the cemetery.

In addition to the stolen headstones, many tombstones got damaged due to inappropriate methods of restoration attempts performed by local craftsmen without the permission of the appropriate authorities. The Szaplonca Orthodox parish, which is the owner of the "merry" cemetery that also functions as an open-air museum was fined because of violation of regulations.

The Szaplonca graveyard is a unique burial site in every respect. A local master called Stan Ioan Patras who got his inspiration from the Greek Catholic priest of the village started carving these uniques headstones in 1935. The master was a diverse folk artist; in addition to carving headstones, he also drew images of the deceased and many cases even carved humorous poems in the headstones evoking the personality of the departed.

According to the Romanian Ministry of Culture, the tombstones are fast decaying because villagers hire local masters without appropriate knowledge to restore the headstones to their original state. Máramaros county conservationist Robert Strébeli said to Erdély Television that more than three quarters of the eight hundred headstones carved by two craftsmen had already stolen or damaged by badly executed restoration procedures.

Szaplonca's Orthodox priest Iustin Lutai denied that visitors had stolen headstones from the “merry” cemetery. According to the priest, no one knows better how to restore these decaying headstones than the local masters.

(MTI –


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