This Europe: Romania's rich get a taste for the afterlife

By Alison Mutler
Thursday 14 November 2013 04:32

First they built lakeside villas. Now Romania's new rich want to strut their prosperity in the afterlife with grandiose graves.

Mausoleums of dubious taste are rising in Bellu cemetery, a resting place for poets and princes. Its guardians worry that the country's grandest and most genteel graveyard is losing its aristocratic air.

Father Radu Dumitru, an Orthodox priest who manages Bellu, believes it should be made a national pantheon this year – its 150th anniversary – to save it. "I don't want any more kitsch," he said.

But money decides who gets buried in Bellu, and grave decoration has no rules. One tomb built in 1997 is an imitation of a Greek temple encased in white glass. "The glass makes it look like a shop," Father Dumitru said.

Viorel Catarama, a furniture magnate and politician in his forties, has built a large tomb that resembles an upmarket boutique, complete with a façade of black marble and brass letters above the door that read: "The Catarama Family."

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