Welcome to Sighetu Marmației
Set amid beautiful rolling hills and farmland close to the Tisa River, Sighetu Marmatiei, also known as Sighet, is one of the main towns in the Maramures region, an area noted for its rich centuries-old traditions. The inhabitants of this area have preserved, to an amazing extent, the rural culture and crafts of their Dacian ancestors
The outdoor Village Museum in Sighetu Marmatiei boasts dozens of homes and farm buildings assembled from around the Maramures region. Beautifully carved wooden gates and unique wooden churches with tall spires and shingled roofs can be seen in many nearby villages. The towering Maramures wooden gates, often-compared to triumphal arches, are the calling cards of the local wood carvers. Supported by four columns, they feature traditional ornamental motifs, including the sun and the twisted rope, both symbols of life and continuity.
Other attractions of this town, which boasts religious buildings of many denominations, include the 16th century Reformed Church, the Ethnographic Museum (see details), the Elie Wiesel Memorial House (see details) and the Museum of Arrested Thought (see details) located in a former communist prison in the center of town.
The spiritual philosophy of the people of Maramures is perhaps nowhere more apparent than in Sapanta – a 20-minute drive from Sighet. The town folks’ ancestors considered death as a beginning, not the end, and this faith is reflected in the carvings in the town’s unique Merry Cemetery. Blue wooden crosses feature a carved scene and humorous verses that endeavor to capture essential elements - both the good and the imperfections - of the deceased’s life. Even without benefit of translation, visitors can appreciate the handiwork of sculptor Stan Ion Patras, who began carving these epitaphs in 1935, and his successors. Patras’ house in the village is now a fascinating museum. Sapanta is also home to several wooden gates and one of the region’s tallest wooden churches.
As it has for hundreds of years, social life in Maramures continues to revolve around the village church. The Wooden Churches of Maramures – located in the nearby villages of Surdesti, Plopis, Rogoz, Ieud, Poeinile Izei, Barsana, Budesti and Desesti - have been recognized by UNESCO as World Heritage Sites. Unique in shape and ornamentation, they have characteristic high roofs and tall, narrow, pointed steeples, often collectively describer as ‘the Gothic style of Maramures.’
Jewish Sighetu Marmatiei
Wijnitzer Klaus Synagogue
Address: Str. Basarabia 10
Before World War II, eight synagogues served the local Jewish community. Today, only one, built in 1885 in an eclectic Moresque style, is still standing and in use.
Old Jewish Cemetery (Cimitirul Evreiesc)
Address: Str. Szilagiy Istvan
Sighet was a center of Hasidism and pilgrims from around the world still gather here to visit the tombs of the tzadikim (righteous ones) in the Old Jewish Cemetery.
Jewish Community Center (Comunitatea Evreilor din Sighet)
Address: Str. Basarabia 8
Telephone: (262) 311.652
Elie Wiesel Memorial House (Casa Memoriala Elie Wiesel)
Address: Str. Tudor Vladimirescu 1
Tel: (240) 513.249
Open: Tue. – Sun. 9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.; Closed Mon.
Located at the corner of Dragos Voda and Tudor Vladimirescu streets, not far from the Wijnitzer Klaus synagogue, the house where 1986 Nobel Peace Prize winner Elie Wiesel was born is now a museum dedicated to the victims of the Holocaust and the Jewish way of life in Sighet before World War II. Born here in 1928, Elie Wiesel is the author of over 40 books, the best known of which is Night, a memoir that describes his experiences during the Holocaust and his imprisonment in several concentration camps.
Wiesel writes candidly of his childhood in Sighet, where his parents were shopkeepers like many other Jewish townspeople. The town was annexed to Hungary in 1940. In 1944, Elie, his family and the rest of the Jewish community were placed in one of the two ghettos in Sighet. The Wiesel family lived in the larger of the two, on Serpent Street. On April 19, 1944, the Hungarian authorities deported the town’s Jewish population to Auschwitz–Birkenau.
Maramures Ethnographic Museum (Muzeul de Etnografie al Maramuresului)
Address: Piata Libertatii 15
Tel: (262) 311.521
Open: Tue. – Sun. 10:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m.; Closed Mon.
Housed in a baroque-style building from 1730, the museum displays a valuable collection of folk masks, old ceramics, carpets, woodcarvings, handmade rugs, icons painted on glass and other pastoral heritage items.
Maramures Village Museum (Muzeul Satului Maramuresan)
Address: Str. Dobaies 40
Tel: (240) 513.249
Open: Tue. – Sun. 10:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m.; Closed Mon.
Laid out in the style of a traditional Maramures village, Sighet’s open-air ethnographic museum is home to numerous houses, farm buildings and a typical wooden church, all original structures transported from regional villages to the museum’s grounds.
Museum of Arrested Thought (Memorialul Victimelor Comunismului si al Rezistentei)
Address: Str. Corneliu Coposu 4
Tel: (262) 319.424
Sighet's infamous prison, one of the most oppressive in the country during the communist years, witnessed the torture and starvation of numerous members of Romania's intellectual and political elite during the 1950s. Today a museum dedicated to the memory of the prisoners and the resistance movement in communist Romania, the prison features photographic displays illustrating the history of this gloomy institution. Those interested can also visit the prison’s cells and torture chambers.
Merry Cemetery (Cimitirul Vesel) in Sapanta
Where: 10 miles northwest of Sighetu Maramatiei
Nearest train station: Sighetu Marmatiei
Colorful, five-foot, carved oak crosses, featuring carved portraits or scenes from the deceased’s life, are inscribed with witty epitaphs that capture essential elements – both the good and the imperfections – of the villagers who rest here. Words and images were chosen by the sculptor as he saw fit at this unique cemetery located just 15 minutes outside of Sighetu Marmatiei.
The crosses also feature geometric designs in symbolic colors: yellow for fertility (the subject had many children), red for passion, green for life, black for early death. The townsfolk’s ancestors considered death as a beginning, not the end. Therefore, the background is always blue, the color of hope and freedom.
Even without benefit of translation, visitors will appreciate the handiwork of sculptor Stan Ion Patras (1907-1977), who began carving these epitaphs in 1935. Patras’ house in the village is now a fascinating museum. Vasile Stan, one of Patras’ apprentices, continues the work of his master.
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