IN THE UNIQUE REALM OF SAPANTA
Text and photos Andrei Dorian Gheorghe
Design Florin Alexandru Stancu
This project begins with a house with rhomboidal models
(in fact, four-corner stars),
which is placed right vis-à-vis of the Merry Cemetery
in the village of Sapanta.
I went to that original cemetery in 2018-06-20,
passing through Campulung la Tisa (Long Field at the Tisa River),
the first Capital City of the Maramures voivodeship around 1300.
Maramures… the “land of the free Dacians”
(considered part of Greater Transylvania
and placed in North-Northwest Romania),
a zone never conquered by the Roman Empire,
in which many of the locals
were ennobled by the Kingdom of Hungary,
kept a relative autonomy in the Habsburg Empire
and, with hard prices,
resisted against the communist collectivization in Romania.
A fascinating connection between the free Geto-Dacians
(for whom death was a reason of joy just because
it ensured an appointment with their supreme god Zamolxis)
and their followers over millennia
is the Merry Cemetery,
which was founded in 1935 by Stan Ioan Patras,
who used to make colored crosses and to write humorous verses on them.
(Today this cemetery is Christian-Orthodox,
although its founder was Greek Catholic,
a form of Christianity invented by the Habsburg Empire,
in which the rituals remained Orthodox,
but the head was the Pope).
Another form of inspiration for Stan Ioan Patras
was the black hunour from a local two-line form of poetry,
named “strigatura” in Maramures
and “tipuritura” in the neighboring and related province of Oas,
performed at important events (weddings, holidays and funerals).
Here is an excerpt (in my English translation) of a famous inscription
on a cross in the Merry Cemetery,
which is full of floral-solar symbols:
“Under this hard cross
My mother-in-law lies, it’s true!
But if she lived for three days more,
I lied near her, too.”
I remarked here an amazing astronomical surprise,
and I wrote:
The three visible phases of the Moon
On a cross in a cemetery
Made me feel not only merry,
But also… really free.
Here is also the cross of Stan Ioan Patras.
But Zamolxis was a solar god,
and his continuer in the Romanian territory, Jesus Christ,
was associated with the Sun,
so that I visited the new church (still in construction at that time)
of the Merry Cemetery,
looking for solar motifs,
and I even wrote a… ‘tipuritura-strigatura”:
Zamolxis was the Dacian god of light,
While Sapanta… a spark between left and right!
Then I moved north for a few kilometers,
passing through an arboretum and arriving close to the Tisa River
to see another wonder of the village,
the Sapanta-Peri Monastery.
Historical Maramures was a voivodeship
separated in two parts by the River Tisa.
the Habsburg domination tried to destroy the Romanian homogeneity here,
bringing many Slavic workers and peasants to North Maramures,
and forcing the Romanian population to become Greek-Catholic.
So that today, because of more historical events,
North Maramures belongs to Ukraine
and South Maramures to Romania.
After World War II
the communist regime prohibited the Greek Catholic Church,
so that the Romanian Maramuresans returned to the Orthodox Church.
In the context of this historic evolution,
the “voievod” Dragos Voda made a hermitage
on the northern bank of the Tisa River
in the 14th century.
Then his followers made a church in the same place in the 1390s,
which became the Orthodox Episcopate of Maramures for three centuries.
This church was destroyed by the Habsburg Empire in 1703,
but its spirit resisted for almost three other centuries,
and in 1997 the church was re-founded on the southern bank of the Tisa River
as the Sapanta-Peri Monastery.
When it was ready in 2003,
it became a beautiful religious complex,
with the highest wooden church in the world (78 m).
I also found here three wooden sculptures
representing the astral coats of arms of
Transylvania (with the Sun and the Moon),
Wallachia (with the Sun and the Moon, too)
and Moldavia (with the Sun, the Moon and the Evening Star),
which compose Romania today.
It was something like a coronation of my visit to Sapanta.
Then I enjoyed its cross,
which is veiled in gold.
And I preferred to end with
the Sun, the Moon and the Evening star in reality,
as part of that unforgettable day in Maramures,
with the mention that I chose two variants for the last of them,
Venus (down on the right of the Moon)
and Jupiter (on the left of the Moon).
© 2019 SARM
(Romanian Society for Meteors and Astronomy)