Hill of Crosses
Just north of Šiauliai, Lithuania is a small hill decorated with thousands of crosses that symbolize devotion to Christianity and Lithuanian nationalism. This sacred place is known as the Hill of Crosses. For centuries, Lithuanians have been putting crosses on the hill as a testimony to faith, love and sacrifice.
As a result of Soviet oppression of Lithuanian Catholicism, the hill became an act of revolt. The first crosses were put up by families of fallen victims in the 1831 rebellion against the autocratic Russian government since they were not allowed to properly honor the dead. It was the citizens’ way of peaceful resistance.
The crosses were repeatedly removed and burned by the Russian Army, leaving the sacred hill destroyed many times. But the Lithuanians continued to replace the crosses after every removal until it was finally left in peace in 1985.
The Hill of Crosses received worldwide fame in 1993 during a visit by Pope John Paul II, who celebrated Holy Mass with 100,000 of the faithful and declared the site a great symbol of Catholic faith.
In addition to crosses, the hill is covered with rosaries, pictures of Jesus and the saints, religious statues, carvings and inscriptions. Many of the crosses bear inscriptions stating the reason for placement. The inscriptions are mainly Lithuanian, but you can find writing in countless other languages representing different Christian denominations.
The last recorded number of crosses on the hill was 55,387, with new ones placed there daily. It is tradition for every visitor to leave his or her own cross. The cross can be purchased or made on-site with pebbles and branches.
Less than a mile from the hill is the monastery of the Hill of Crosses, consecrated in 2000 at the request of Pope John Paul II. The monastery has six cells, a chapel and library. The chapel is decorated with a stained-glass window that looks out on to the Hill of Crosses. The monastery is home to the Lithuanian Franciscan Province of St. Casimir and open to pilgrims and worshipers.
The hill is about seven miles from Šiauliai, the fourth largest city in Lithuania. There is bus transportation from Šiauliai to the Hill of Crosses. Take the bus labeled Šiauliai-Joniškis and get off at Domantai. From there the Hill of Crosses is just a mile walk and will be visible in the distance.
– By Susan DiLillo