THE HILL OF CROSSES……
The Hill of Crosses, Kryziu Kalnas, in the city of Siauliai, Lithuania stands on a small hill, about 10 meters tall. The tradition of leaving crosses began after an uprising of the Polish and Lithuanians against the Russian tsar was squelched in 1831. Relatives of the dead rebels, with no bodies to bury, instead left crosses on this hill to commemorate their fallen. Today there are about 200,000 crosses at the site, excluding carvings and shrines, made out of everything from wood to metal.
During the Soviet occupation of Lithuania from 1944 to 1991, the Hill of Crosses became a symbol of defiance against the Communist regime. Three times the Soviets bulldozed the hill, but after each time both locals and pilgrims once again would erect crosses on the hill.Thousands of people visit the site each year. Pope John Paul II visited in 1993 to dedicate the site. A stone marker at the foot of the hills bears his words, “Thank You, Lithuanians, for this hill of crosses which testifies to the nations of Europe and to the whole world the faith of the people of the land.” A hermitage has been erected nearby to assist visitors and the faithful are welcome to add their contribution to this unusual Hill.
Today, the crosses number in the hundred of thousands. This place attracts both locals and tourists. Walking among numerous crosses, some decorated with devotion to loved ones, one can hear the rosaries rattle in the wind. This little hillock has long been a potent symbol of suffering, hope, devotion, and the undefeated faith of the Lithuanian people.Prayers: Vygandas Drazdauskas with a cross asking for health for his father, success for his girlfriend for her exams, and a peaceful life.Plea for divine help: Some of the crosses bear messages to God.Modesta Vaisvilaite ties a cross to the hill: When the Russians again occupied Lithuania, during the Soviet period, religion was forbidden.
Defiance: When crosses continued to appear the Soviet authorities stationed KGB agents around the site to stop people sneaking through the forest to plant crosses.
In the mist: Some stand as much as three meters tall, while there are also countless tiny examples hanging upon the larger crosses.
In 1991, when Lithuania acquired its long awaited independence, the hill became a dual symbol of Lithuania ‘s Catholic faith and her national identity.
Silhouetted in red: Pilgrims arrive at all times of day and night to pray to God.