Saturday, July 5, 2008

The merry cemetery of Sapanta

The merry cemetery of Sapanta has been, for more than fifty years, the creation of sculptor Stan Patras, the successor of several generations of wood artists that bequeathed their trade from father to son.
In the beginning he sculpted about ten crosses a year. The method of work has been preserved unaltered to thisday. The oak wood is cut into beams that are then allowed to dry one or two years. Next they are hewn into 10-cm thick planks, 2.20 m long and 30-40 cm wide, ranged in stacks, and allowed to dry for some months more. Then the sculptor begins his work: first he draws the geometrical motifs and the bas-relief dedicated to the deceased, then he sculpts and paints the cross in blue - a symbol of hope and freedom. In 1934, Patras began to scribble an epitaph on the crosses. Usually it is a short poem written in the first person, dotted with archaisms,
vernacular phrases and...spelling errors.

The sculptor-poet's source of inspiration is the two-three night wake. The relatives of the dead person do not mourn, but drink and make merry. The entire life of the village is featured in this cemetery. The shepherd, the farmer, the wood ranger, the wood cutter, or the pupil stand side by eternally, with the weaver, the spinner, the housewife, the merchant, the carpenter, the doctor, the musician or the drunk. This colective memory of Sapanta, this ensemble of colourful graves where each dead peson recounts humbly his/her existence with its joys and sorrows, creates a serene and merry atmosphere, a sort of challenge to death, a hymn to life.

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