Hill of Crosses Lithuania

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.

Hill of Crosses
Legends and fables color the history of the Hill of Crosses. First mention in writing dates to 1850, but some think the crosses appeared earlier, left by mourning relatives of the victims of revolts against the Russian regime in 1831, and later in 1863. The tsar suppressed national identity by limiting religious expression, so families were forbidden to honor the dead with proper burial in cemeteries. Many believe the crosses cropped up at the end of the 19th century, after an apparition of the Virgin Mary holding baby Jesus asked the believers to cover the holy place with these icons.
Another legend describing the origin of the crosses relates to a Lithuanian farmer whose daughter was extremely ill. One night he had a dream in which a white clothed woman appeared and told him to make a wooden cross and place it on a nearby hill. If he followed her instructions his daughter would be cured. He did as he was told and returned home to find his daughter in good health. Others flocked to the hill to place crosses in the hope that similar miracles would be granted to them.
Lithuania - Kryžių Kalnas

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.

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