The Cemetery

Rimetea’s cemetery is of great historical and ethnographical value. This public cemetery was presumably established at the beginning of the 18th century as its oldest gravestone was bed in 1705. The name of the cemetery, ‘Birgej’, derives from the German term Berg meaning hill.

Gravestones record the development of artistic styles in Transylvania. There are approximately 30 monuments in the cemetery that are 18th century in date and quite primitive in form. Although these monuments have very short inscriptions they do have the best ethnographic value. There are very few monuments in the cemetery from the beginning of the 18th century that continue the Transylvanian Renaissance tradition, for example, displaying architectural features such as cornices and carved capitals. Most of the Baroque headstones originating from the second half of the 18th century have vibrant and decorative inscriptions. Gravestones that were Classicist or Eclectic in style were common in the 19th century. Cast stone became a popular material for headstones in the second half of the 20th century.

Special attention should be paid to the different references found on the gravestones associated with Rimetea’s past trades. These provide evidence on the settlement’s social structure and professional hierarchy. There are gravestones with crossed hammers and picks, associated with the mining industry, some foundry owner marks with three plough forms; hammers and chisels marks stonemasons and axes mark carpenters.

However, only few outside visitors could see the real face of the Birgej, hidden in the depths of the hill: a large ensemble of artificial caves of various sizes used as crypts. Every family owns such a cave, where coffins are placed side by side. The remains from disintegrated coffins are collected in a bone-pit, in one of the corners, to create places for new coffins. The cave can be accessed through a flue that is normally covered with earth. Before burials only the flue, known as the ‘pipe’, is unearthed and after the ceremony this feature is covered.