More than 200 thousand crosses in one place, on one hill. The Hill of Crosses is an historical and architectural monument, which attracts people with its peace, spirituality, authenticity and sacred nature. Its exact origins are unknown, but it is thought that the first crosses were placed on the former Jurgaičiai or Domantai hill fort after the 1831 Uprising. Over the centuries, not only crosses, but giant crucifixes, carvings of Lithuanian patriots, statues of the Virgin Mary and thousands of tiny effigies and rosaries have been brought here by Catholic pilgrims. On September 7, 1993, Pope John Paul II visited the Hill of Crosses, declaring it a place for hope, peace, love and sacrifice.
The tradition of carving religious icons has been handed down through generations. UNESCO recognizes cross-making as intangible cultural heritage of Lithuania, a “symbol of national and religious identity,” uniting the community in the face of adversity. During the Soviet era, religion remained banned and the Hill of Crosses off limits. In April 1961, the entire site was bulldozed and burned down by the authorities. Even though the Hill of Crosses was destroyed four more times, each time locals risked political danger by defiantly rebuilding the site under the cover of darkness.
Since gaining independence in 1991, religion in Lithuania is practiced freely and openly. Still, a rural exodus from rural areas and villages means fewer young people learn the craft of cross-making. Today, no one really holds jurisdiction of the Hill of Crosses, with different organizations and individual volunteers pitching in to maintain the site. However, even with an uncertain future, the Hill of Crosses welcomes tourists so they might better understand the local community’s difficult past, learn of its unshakable faith, and feel hope for the future.
Hill of Crosses is located in Northern Lithuania, 46 km from the border of Latvia/Lithuania. Hill of Crosses is 123 km (1 hour and 45 min) drive from Riga and 220 km (2 hours and 35 min) drive from Vilnius. If you want, you can leave a cross at the sight. You can make a cross by yourself or purchase one on a sight.