The Hill of Crosses in iauliai, Lithuania, is one of the most mysterious, beautiful, and spiritual places in the country. Decorated with thousands of crucifixes, the Hill of Crosses is a long-standing Lithuanian tradition of individual devotion at a single, sacred place.
Hill of Crosses Origins
Sources vary as to when the crosses first started appearing on the hill near iauliai. The town itself was founded in 1250 AD, and it may be that the early inhabitants of the area began the tradition of placing crosses here. Records of crosses appear as early as the 1800s. There is probably some connection between the increase in crosses at this time with the response to a rebellion in 1831 against tsarist infringement. The Hill of Crosses was used as a pilgrimage site until the 20th century, the number of crosses growing steadily from a few hundred to thousands. The Hill came under threat during the Soviet regime, when it was bulldozed 3 times by Russians, purposefully flooded, and the road leading there blockaded. Each time, more crosses reappeared, and the Hill of Crosses' spiritual symbolism grew more meaningful.
Hill of Crosses in Recent History
After the breakup of the USSR, the Hill of Crosses gained worldwide fame. Pope John Paul II visited the sacred site in 1997. Not only a Lithuanian symbol of spiritual tenacity, it was now an international site of devotion.
Hill of Crosses Today
Visit the Hill of Crosses on a sunny day, preferably in the morning so that you can examine the variety of crosses, inscriptions, and pictures there. Crucifixes of all sizes, made of wood, metal, plastic, or other materials rest against one another, stand solid in the ground, or jingle against other crosses in the wind. As this is still a place of pilgrimage and prayer, it is best to stay silent and respectful as you stroll through the crosses. However, it is the custom for every visitor to leave a cross of their own. If you dont have a cross, you can make one of pebbles and sticks as others have done. At any rate, when you leave something of yourself there, youll be taking away the memory of a place where so many others have shared their hopes, grief, love, and faith.
Check out the guide to getting to the Hill of Crosses from Vilnius.