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I want to share with all of you my experiences about one of the most unique and heart-warming places in Lithuania. It is the Hill of Crosses near an industrial city of Siauliai. I have been there a few times already but every time I have become so touchy, emotional and sentimental...
WHAT IS IT?
The Hill of Crosses (in Lithuanian - Kryziu Kalnas) is a special place where for about 150 years people build crosses. Now it is thought there are about 200 thousand crosses there. The size and variety of crosses is amazing! Carved out of wood or sculpted from metal, decorated or plain, the crosses range from three meters tall to the countless tiny ones hanging on the larger crosses. When it is windy, thousands of crosses and rosaries make a special music...
The Cross building on this Hill shows Lithuanian people's devotion to Christ and belief in power of Christ Cross. In this way people ask Christ for help, consolation, pray for peace, their country, people they love.
Extremely important the Hill of Crosses became during soviet occupation. It was the symbol of resistance to persecutions of people and their beliefs. After every demolition, the Hill of Crosses was brought back to life. And today it is the national pilgrimage center. People from all over the world visit this place attracted by it's peace, spirituality and authenticity.
The Hill of Crosses is located about 12 kilometres to the north of lithuanian city Siauliai. The Hill is on the Jurgaiciai-Domantai mound with a former ancient village dated to the 13th-14th centuries. A wooden castle stood there in the middle ages but was destroyed in 1348. For a few centuries the hill remained bare and in the 19th century became sacred. People say that first crosses were built on the Hill by the rebels that died in the 1831 rebellion as relatives weren't allowed to pay proper tribute to their graves. Even more crosses were built after the rebellion of 1863 against the Russian occupiers. After suppressing the revolt, Russian authorities banned the cross-building, punished the owners of land where any crosses still stood and teared them down. People were very determained and didn't stop setting up crosses. They simply looked for more distant locations. And the Hill of Crosses was a perfect place for secret cross-building. It continually expanded. Between the two world wars, the hill flourished. More and more people were coming here to pray, and Masses were celebrated.
During the Soviet occupation, cross-building on the hill was strictly forbidden. The Soviets kept on removing new crosses, bulldozed the place a few times, piligrims were tracked and punished, roads to the hill were closed. People even were talking that occupants wanted to flood the hill. People always managed to rebuild the Hill and in Lithuania this Hill still is the symbol of freedom and resistance!
When Lithuania regained independence, information about the Sacred hill started spreading all over the world and pilgrims began streaming to the Hill of Crosses. People began erecting crosses also at the foot of the hill as it became hard to find free space on the hill itself. Even Pope John Paul II visited the Hill of Crosses in September of 1993. He prayed and celebrated Mass at the Hill of Crosses.
After his trip to Lithuania, while visiting the Franciscan monastery on Mount La Verna in Italy, John Paul II encouraged the Franciscans to build a sanctuary by the Hill of Crosses. The resulting monastery was blessed on 8 of July in 2000.
When I visited the Hill of Crosses for first time - it didn't look special from a distance. Because it's not a big hill... But when you come closer, start walking around.... My opinion changed immediately. And I was surprised, even shocked seeing how mane people have visited the Hill. Because everywhere You look around You see crosses and rosaries.... It's something amazing. You can't even imagine how many people have already been there, prayed and hoped. I started thinking that all my problems were nothing compared to other people problems who came here expecting miracles.... And not just from Lithuania - from all over the world...
The Hill of Crosses is really a sacred place that makes you rethink about everything in your life. Because for so many years people have rebuilt the Hill, crosses and saved this place. Nothing could destroy their belief!!! And so this is one of two most spiritual places I've ever been (another one - Montserrat Monastery in Spain).
Well, people visit this place not only to pray. There is a wide spread tradition in Lithuania to come to the Hill of Crosses on the wedding day. The couple puts a Cross asking God to protect their new family. It also symbolises a new beginning when two people swore to each other forever love and respect.
Where to get crosses? You can buy crosses and rosaries in place near the Hill or you can bring your own. Doesn't matter. You'll just have to look for a bigger cross where to hang Yours (unless You want to put a very big cross Yourself )...
I definitely recommend to visit the Hill of Crosses in Lithuania if you have a chance. It is a place where You stop thinking about Yourself. You, like a person, stop existing. Because You can feel the spirit of the Hill and of so many people that have been there and left their hopes, beliefs, desires...
This sacred place in Lithuania shows that even killing people, burning and destroying crosses makes the rest of the nation even stronger.
More information You can get http://www.kryziukalnas.lt/?id=44 or at Tourism information centre of Siauliai district at the Hill of Crosses
Jurgaiciai Village, Meskuiciai Rural Municipality,
LT-81439 Siauliai Region
Coordinates: 56°0'54"N 23°24'56"E
Tel. +370 41 370 860, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
Office hours: Monday- Sunday - 9.00-18.00 h
Some extra information: parking costs at the Hill of Crosses (£1 aproximately 4Lt):
Motorcycle and bike - 2 Lt
Cars - 3 Lt
Caravan, camper van - 10 Lt
Minibuses with up to 16 seats - 10 Lt
Buses with 16-40 seats - 20 Lt
Buses with more than 40 seats - 30 Lt
WC - 1 Lt
More information by phone +370 41 370 860 or e-mail email@example.com
Thanks for taking time to read my review and I really hope that some day You'll visit the Hill of Crosses in Lithuania!
Also posted on ciao.co.uk under the same name.