Lithuania’s Hill of Crosses

by J-Touchette

As families could not locate bodies of perished rebels, they started putting up symbolic crosses

Near Siauliai, Lithuania, there is a piece of history that has been built and rebuilt through some of the toughest times in the country.

The Hill of Crosses was thought to have originated as a memorial of those who died in the 1831 rebellion which began with a major uprising led by the Polish nobility in Warsaw who were joined by many people in Lithuania who also rebelled against Russian rule. The Hill of Crosses was first referenced in writing in 1850. Crosses of the same kind became more common after the continuing rebellion in 1863.

In the beginning of the 20th century, the Hill of Crosses was known as a sacred place. Pilgrims would visit, and masses and devotions would be held there.

During the Soviet regime, the hill became a place of quiet resistance. In 1961, crosses were burnt, used for scrap and buried, while the hill itself was bulldozed several times by the Soviets. From 1973 to 1975, five hundred crosses were openly destroyed each year. The Soviets began to give false reasons for the destruction these crosses. They were said to have no artistic value, fake epidemics were announced to prevent people from entering the region, and roads were blocked by police. In 1978 and 1979 there were even attempts to flood the area, but despite all this, the Lithuanian people found a way to make sure that crosses would reappear on the hill each night.

A political change in 1988 made the Hill of Crosses into a Lithuanian phenomenon. Pope John Paul II visited it on September 7, 1993, giving the hill international fame.

A monastery was commissioned in 1994 specifically for the hill, which now stands 300 meters away from the monument.

It is believed there are over 100,000 crosses on the hill, and those who visit are encouraged to leave a new cross or rosary before they depart, even if it’s made of only sticks.

Read more:

Hill of Crosses

Places of Peace and Power | Hill of Crosses

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