Hill of Crosses

Šiauliai, Lithuania

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

Details

Founded: 1831
Category: Miscellaneous historic sites in Lithuania

Rating

4.6/5 (based on Google user reviews)

User Reviews

Lars van Rossum (2 years ago)
Nice place to visit for one time. A second time it is not impressive anymore. It’s located in the middle of nowhere so you really need a car. Parking is free, at least, and the parking lot is very nice. There is a nice souvenir shop. Unfortunately one has to pay for the toilet.
Kamila xx (2 years ago)
I love the experience, I hung up a cross 10 years ago and I can't seem to find it. The cross was massive! It was a lovely experience ☺️
Soki London (3 years ago)
Definitely worth a visit. Quite cold as exposed to the elements. No restaurant. Toilettes cost 50c. When you’ve seen one cross you’ve seen them all?
Ravi Rathnam (3 years ago)
Interesting place. Lots of crosses from all over the world. People have made crosses from different things as well. Like bicycle parts.
Carlo Morlando (3 years ago)
A place where you can find peace, quiet and resilience. Must read history before.
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