Lithuania’s Hill of Crosses: A Powerful Symbol of Faith and Perseverance

Lithuania’s Hill of Crosses: A Powerful Symbol of Faith and Perseverance

MIR’s copywriter, Mariana Noble, spent time in Lithuania where she and a handful of travel professionals visited the Hill of Crosses. The experience was surprisingly profound.

<br>Photo credit: Mariana Noble

Mariana in Lithuania
Photo credit: Mariana Noble

More than a Roadside AttractionIt’s not enough to know what you’re going to see here on the Hill of Crosses. Photos didn’t prepare me for the effects of walking on this rise studded with the thousands of crosses, carvings, statues, rosaries and mementoes that crowd each other for an inch of space on holy ground.

It’s just a small hill where a fortress used to stand. It’s not intrinsically sacred. But for more than 150 years, people have sanctified it with their love and attention, prayer, despair and hope. And their crosses.

They range from a larger-than-life-size carved crucifix hung with a gaunt and suffering Christ to countless tiny wooden crosses that you can buy onsite for a few coins and tuck into any nook or cranny.

Hill of Crosses, Lithuania

Hill of Crosses

 

"Hill of Crosses" is a place of pilgrimage in Lithuania Photo credit: Brian Seifipour

“Hill of Crosses” is a place of pilgrimage in Lithuania
Photo credit: Brian Seifipour

Hill of Crosses, Lithuania. Photo: Martin Klimenta

Hill of Crosses, Lithuania
Photo: Martin Klimenta

The First CrossesReportedly, the first crosses appeared on the hill after a hopeless battle in a failed uprising against the Russian Empire in 1831. In the years that followed, others showed up until eventually the hill was hidden by a multitude of crosses planted anonymously in the earth.

Hill of Crosses, Lithuania. Photo: Kestutis Ambrozaitis

Hill of Crosses
Photo: Kestutis Ambrozaitis

Hill of Crosses, Lithuania. Photo: Brian Seifipour

Hill of Crosses
Photo: Brian Seifipour

<br> Photo credit: Jurate Terleckaite

Music in a sacred space
Photo credit: Jurate Terleckaite

Soviets vs. the Hill of CrossesDuring the Soviet era, authorities regularly tore down and burned the crosses, even though many of them were wonderful examples of folk art. Undaunted, Lithuanian Catholics, artists, pilgrims and patriots would steal up the hill at night and plant more. The last major attempt at leveling the shrine was in 1975. Since then, locals and travelers have placed thousands upon thousands more crosses on the hill, one on top of the other, each person leaving behind a whispered prayer.

Hill of Crosses, Lithuania

Hill of Crosses

Hill of Crosses, Lithuania. Photo: Brian Seifipour

Hill of Crosses
Photo: Brian Seifipour

Whispered PrayersFrom afar it looks like a spiky cap, but as I drew closer to the hill and could pick out the individual offerings, I could feel the stirrings of those whispered prayers. You don’t even have to believe in a God to feel the spirit that lingers on this hill, as if each inert piece of wood is imbued with a tiny piece of its contributor’s soul.

Hill of Crosses, Lithuania. Photo: Kestutis Ambrozaitis

Hill of Crosses
Photo: Kestutis Ambrozaitis

Hill of Crosses, Lithuania's place of national pilgrimagePhoto credit: Brian Seifipour

A pathway through the Hill of Crosses, Lithuania’s place of pilgrimage
Photo credit: Brian Seifipour

Travel to Lithuania with MIR

MIR has more than 30 years of travel experience, offering on-the-ground support and quality you can trust and guides and tour managers that clients rave about. 

Travel to LithuaniaOn MIR’s Kaliningrad & The Baltics small group tour, travel the countryside and urban centers of four distinct nations: the three independent Baltic countries – LithuaniaLatvia and Estonia– and Kaliningrad, an exclave of Russia (more photos and tour details).  

On this tour you get to visit the Hill of Crosses and take a slow walk up and around and let the thousands of human wishes and prayers surround you for a few moments; you might go about your daily life refreshed.

Or book your own uniquely designed custom private journey. MIR specializes in personalized, private journeys, and we’d love to take your ideas and weave them into a trip tailored especially for you. Travel wherever, however, and with whomever you like, relying on our expert assistance. Contact us to find out more about our custom and private travel expertise – each trip handcrafted to your interests, dates and pace.

Chat with a MIR destination specialist by phone (1-800-424-7289) or email today. We would love to take your ideas and weave them into a trip tailored especially for you.

 

(Top photo credit: Peter Guttman)

PUBLISHED: December 8, 2014

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