The Hill of Crosses is a famous site of pilgrimage. The precise origin of the practice of leaving crosses on the hill is uncertain, but it is believed 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 effigiesand rosaries have been brought here by Catholic pilgrims. The exact number of crosses is unknown, but estimates put it at about 100,000 (in 2006).

Over the centuries, the place has come to signify the peaceful endurance of Lithuanian Catholicism despite the threats it faced throughout history. After the 3rd partition of the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth in 1795, Lithuania became part of the Russian Empire. Poles and Lithuanians unsuccessfully rebelled against Russian authorities in 1831 and 1863. These two uprisings are connected with the beginnings of the hill: as families could not locate bodies of perished rebels, they started putting up symbolic crosses in place of a former hill fort.

When the old political structure of Eastern Europe fell apart in 1918, Lithuania once again declared its independence. Throughout this time, the Hill of Crosses was used as a place for Lithuanians to pray for peace, for their country, and for the loved ones they had lost during the Wars of Independence.

Most recently, the site took on a special significance during the years 1944–1990, when Lithuania was occupied by the Soviet Union. Continuing to travel to the Hill and leave their tributes, Lithuanians used it to demonstrate their allegiance to their original identity, religion and heritage. It was a venue of peaceful resistance, although the Soviets worked hard to remove new crosses, and bulldozed the site at least three times (including attempts in 1963 and 1973). There were even rumors that the authorities planned to build a dam on the nearby KulvÄ— River, a tributary to MÅ«ša, so that the hill would end up under water.

On September 7, 1993, Pope John Paul II visited the Hill of Crosses, declaring it a place for hope, peace, love and sacrifice. In 2000 a Franciscan hermitage was opened nearby. The interior decoration draws links with La Verna, the mountain where St. Francis received his stigmata. The hill remains under nobody's jurisdiction; therefore people are free to build crosses as they see fit.

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    Address

    4033, Šiauliai, Lithuania
    See all sites in Šiauliai

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    Founded: 1831
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    User Reviews

    Smithsholidayroad Inclusive Adventures (21 months ago)
    A wonderful place to visit to learn more about Lithuania and it’s History. In the snow it seemed even more spectacular! Free entry and we spent around 45 mins here.
    Jens Görner (2 years ago)
    If you're into religion, it is a place where one can go. It's very commercial. Definitely not a must see place. Compared to what I read about this place in my travel guide, I must admit I was clearly disappointed. If you want to spend money for almost everything, enjoy. If you like the feeling of being surrounded by many bus groups, right choice otherwise, if you pass this place, make a short stop and take a picture so you can say you've been there but more or less that's it.
    Martin Jambor (2 years ago)
    Very weird place but definitely worth seeing. It has weird atmosphere but really interesting. If you want, bring there your own cross and you can place it there.
    Melissa D'Mello (2 years ago)
    The hills of cross is a very unique spot between Riga in Latvian and Vilnius, Lithuania. It's a symbol of resistance for Lithuanians against the Soviet regime. As well was put up in remembrance for the people in this area that disappeared. It's the one spot of its kind in the world and a great place to stop if you are visiting Riga, Vilnius or driving between the two.
    Niels Commandeur (2 years ago)
    Very impressive. Crosses from all over the world. It doesn't look that big when you arrive, but once standing in the middle of it, you realize how many crosses there actually are. Especially once you realize it has been torn down several times.
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