A Tour of Lithuania’s Spectacular and Holy “Hill of Crosses”

Kyle Taylor, Flickr

One of the great surprises of the late 20th century was that the totalitarian, atheistic U.S.S.R. fell without a war, and that the very Catholic Church the communists hated so much played such a big role.

Lithuania’s famous Hill of Crosses is a symbol of that incredible story.

[See also: A Tour of the Hauntingly Beautiful Christian Monastery in “Star Wars: The Force Awakens”]

[See also: The Lost 1200-Year-Old Wonder: A Tour of the Old St. Peter’s Basilica]

Here’s a quick look (click any image to view it full size):

Jevgenij Lobanov, Flickr
Jevgenij Lobanov, Flickr

The land is not owned by anyone – it is has been entirely created and maintained spontaneously. And while no one knows the exact number of crosses, an estimate in 1990 put the number at around 55,000, and in 2006 around 100,000! That’s a lot of crosses!

The tradition of putting crosses in that spot dates back to the mid-19th century when Lithuanians revolted against their Russian occupiers. When families were unable to the find and bury the bodies of their lost loved ones, people started placing crossing on the hill to remember the fallen because it had been the site of a fort. It is believed that there were as many as 3,000 crosses placed on the hill at that time.

In the first half of the 20th century, the number of crosses dwindled. But when atheistic communists took took over after WWII, the hill took on a special new meaning: it became a place for Lithuanians to assert their Catholic faith and identity. In defiance of the atheist rulers, pious Lithuanians filled the hill of thousands of crosses.

The communists fought back, three times bulldozing the site. But each time, Lithuanians re-filled the hill with crosses. Rumors spread that the communist government at one point even considered building a dam nearby to flood the hill to prevent the tradition from continuing. But pious Lithuanians prevailed: by the time the communistic regimes of eastern Europe fell, the hill was filled with tens of thousands of crosses.

In 1993, Pope St. John Paul II visited the site and commended the faith of the people who had preserved the site. And in 2000, a Franciscan hermitage was opened nearby. The holy place remains a destination for Catholic pilgrims today.

You can explore a 360 degree view of the hill here.

And here are more photos of this incredible place:

Pudelek (Marcin Szala), Wikipedia
Pudelek (Marcin Szala), Wikipedia
Tania & Artur, Flickr
Tania & Artur, Flickr
Tania & Artur, Flickr
Tania & Artur, Flickr
Kyle Taylor, Flickr 3
Kyle Taylor, Flickr 3
Kyle Taylor, Flickr
Kyle Taylor, Flickr
Kyle Taylor, Flickr
Kyle Taylor, Flickr
Sharon G., Flickr
Sharon G., Flickr
Tania & Artur, Flickr
Tania & Artur, Flickr
yeowatzup, Flickr
yeowatzup, Flickr
Dezidor, Wikipedia
Dezidor, Wikipedia
Gavin Harper, Flickr
Gavin Harper, Flickr
Jevgenij Lobanov, Flickr
Jevgenij Lobanov, Flickr
Jevgenij Lobanov, Flickr
Jevgenij Lobanov, Flickr
Mindaugas Macaitis, Wikipedia
Mindaugas Macaitis, Wikipedia
Patrick Müller, Flickr
Patrick Müller, Flickr
Tania & Artur, Flickr
Tania & Artur, Flickr
Ian Britton, Flickr
Ian Britton, Flickr

[See also: If Hobbits Had Churches: The Gorgeous “Turf Churches” of Iceland]

[See also: Soaring Up to the Heavens: The World’s Top 10 Tallest Churches]

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Make holy all the things!

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