Culture, Design
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Weird and wonderful cemeteries.

FNND had reason to think about life and death recently…  So started to look around at how people are buried and found a few of these inspirational and amazingly colourful sites … and it was a reminder that ‘life doesn’t cease to be funny when people die any more than it ceases to be serious when people laugh’. George Bernard Shaw


In life, the people of Sapanta in Romania (town population of 1,500) occupy their days tilling fields and spinning wool for thick blankets or tending flocks of shaggy sheep and big cows.  On Sundays they drink their potent local liquor of fermented fruits called Tuica, go to church and gossip at the café in their garishly coloured folk costumes.  But when a citizen of Sapanta dies, Dumitru Pop, a farmer, woodcarver and poet, gathers his notebook, chisels and paintbrushes and prepares to carve a poetic and pictorial homage of the deceased onto an oak grave marker in what villagers now call the Merry Cemetery, beside the Church of the Assumption.

They don’t view death as something indelibly solemn. The local Dacian culture’s philosophy vouches for the immortality of the soul and the belief that death is a moment filled with joy and anticipation for a better life.

Here’s one epitaph about the mother in-law:

Under this heavy cross
Lies my poor mother in-law
Three more days she would have lived
I would lie, and she would read (this cross).
You, who here are passing by
Not to wake her up please try
Cause’ if she comes back home
She’ll criticise me more.
But I’ll behave so well
That she’ll not return from hell.
Stay here, my dear mother in-law!

Gheorghe Basulti, the butcher, is pictured chopping a lamb with a cleaver, a pipe at his lip.


Ioan Toaderu loved horses, but, he says from beyond the grave: One more thing I loved very much, To sit at a table in a bar. Next to someone else’s wife.

Sometimes the headstones are a warning. Dumitru Holdis was overly fond of Sapanta’s moonshine. A black skeleton grabs his leg as he lifts a bottle to his lips, and his epitaph denounces tuica as ”real poison.”

”What is on the stone is the truth,” said Mr. Pop, 46, sitting in the main room of Mr. Stan’s old wooden farmstead, where he now lives. In a small town, he said, ”there are no secrets.” The only problem, said Mr. Pop, is that in a small town, there is not much to differentiate the routines of the inhabitants. ”Their lives were the same but they want their epitaphs to be different,” he said.

The Chichi Cemetery is in Chichicastenango –  a town in the El Quiché department of Guatemala, known for its traditional K’iche’ Maya culture. Perched on a hill, this is a Mayan and Christian cemetery … apparently very peaceful, overlooking the town and the Guatemalan hills. If you’re lucky you may come across some Mayan rituals taking place when you visit.6786186-Chichicastenango-Cemetery-0

The Neptune Memorial Reef also known as the Atlantis Memorial Reef or the Atlantis Reef is an underwater mausoleum for cremated remains and the world’s largest man-made reef (covering over 600,000 square feet of ocean floor). Opened in 2007, the reef stretches across 16 acres of ocean floor and is designed as both a home for sea life and “a destination for divers”. Cremated remains are mixed into different structures and columns.

Among its residents: 86-year-old Edith Hink of Naples who passed away last year. Her family decided she loved the water so much, they’d try something new.


Well known to Londoners, Stoke Newington’s Abney Park Cemetery was the first the first wholly nondenominational garden cemetery in Europe, which was operational as a place of burial from 1840 to 1974/8. Whilst not so happy looking to us now, when Abney Park was first opened as a cemetery, its ‘model’ lay in the New World, celebrating the romance of nature and woodland, and positive religious associations.

The founders of The Salvation Army are buried in a prominent location close to Church Street and many men and women instrumental to the abolition of slavery are also buried here.


The graveyard scenes in the music video for the song Back to Black, by singer Amy Winehouse were filmed at Abney Park Cemetery … film screenings were hosted by Thaddeus Boring in the cemetery too.

A step closer to heaven ….  The hanging coffins of Sagada are more impressive than any horror fiction. Situated six hours away of Banaue, the Lumiang Burial Cave houses a total of 200 coffins that have survived 500 years of natural and man-made disasters. Eerie yet fascinating, the higher the coffin hangs, the closer they are supposed to be to heaven.  Igorot tradition only permitted those who died from natural causes to be placed inside the hanging coffins. Those who either died as infants or from illnesses were believed to bring bad luck if enclosed in the coffins. It’s still unknown how the ancient Igorots hung the coffins. Once the coffins were properly suspended, the bodies wrapped in cloth would then be placed inside them.


If a drop of blood fell on someone whilst they wrapped the body of the deceased they were considered to be blessed with luck as blood isn’t something to be squirmish about in their world – on the contrary, it symbolises good fortune.


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