Lithuania’s Hill of Crosses

Hill of CrossesThere are tens of thousands of crosses planted on a hillside in Lithuania. The Hill of Crosses (Kryžiu Kalnas) is located in northern Lithuania near Šiauliai – the fourth largest city in the country. No one knows for sure why the custom started, but the crosses began appearing in the 14th century. Over the years, pilgrims journeyed there to place their own cross on the hill.

The city of Siauliai was founded in 1236 and controlled by Teutonic Knights during the 14th century. The tradition of placing crosses seems to date from this period and may have risen as a symbol of Lithuanian defiance toward foreign invaders. Since the medieval period, the Hill of Crosses has represented the peaceful resistance of Lithuanian Catholicism to oppression. In 1795, Siauliai was incorporated into Russia but was returned to Lithuania in 1918. Many crosses were erected upon the hill after the peasant uprising of 1831-63. By 1895, there were at least 150 large crosses, in 1914, 200, and by 1940 there were 400 large crosses surrounded by thousands of smaller ones.

crosses on a hillAfter being captured by Germany in World War II, the city suffered even more damage when Soviet Russia retook it at the war’s end. From 1944 until Lithuania’s independence in 1991, Siauliai was a part of the Lithuanian Soviet Socialist Republic. During the Soviet era, the pilgrimage to the Hill of Crosses became expression of Lithuanian nationalism. The Soviets repeatedly removed the crosses placed on the hill by Lithuanians.

The hill was leveled three times: during 1961, 1973 and 1975. The crosses were burned or turned into scrap metal, and the area was covered with waste and sewage. Following each of these agonizing experiences local inhabitants and pilgrims from all over Lithuania rapidly replaced crosses upon the sacred hill. In 1985, the Hill of Crosses finally found peace. The reputation of the hill has since spread all over the world and every year it is visited by many thousands of visitors.

The size and variety of crosses is as amazing as their number. Beautifully carved out of wood or sculpted from metal, the crosses range from three meters tall to the countless tiny examples hanging profusely upon the larger crosses.

It is a wonder that the instrument of torture on which Jesus died has become the greatest symbol of Christian hope.

He is Risen.

It's only fair to share...Share on Facebook45Tweet about this on TwitterShare on Google+0Share on LinkedIn0Pin on Pinterest0Share on Reddit0Share on StumbleUpon0Print this pageEmail this to someone
55 replies
  1. Joel
    Joel says:

    I hope the same can be said about the plight of the Palestinians. I suppose the people of the so-called civilized world has forgotten that we are human first before being Christians. The Lord never taught us to be a member of a religion but to be human beings.

  2. Matt Keegan
    Matt Keegan says:

    Joel, we are certainly all human beings but there are in reality only two races living on this earth: the saved race and the unsaved race.

    The plight of suffering people whether they be Lithuanians, Palestinians, Israelis or what have you is important, but most important is that everyone know that salvation is through Jesus Christ who has reconciled surrendered sinners to God.

  3. Mamaflo
    Mamaflo says:

    What an incredible site! I’ve never seen nor heard about this ever before so thank you for posting the photos and explanation.

  4. Joel
    Joel says:

    What I’ve learned and what I’ve been taught in the seminary is that we all worship one God but with different names. I suppose this is why the Salesian order has more grasp of reality than any order or faith that I’ve ever come across. If Jews are God’s chosen people, then why do people cling to their sects? Then there are only two kinds of people, the Jews who God will save and the rest of us who will not be saved.

  5. Dr.Bruce
    Dr.Bruce says:

    Hi Joel,

    First, what seminary? There are certainly religions that teach a view of God that you are describing. However, that is not the Christian view. The bible teaches that God sent a promised Messiah to the Jews and they rejected Him. the Messiah’s followers are called Christians and the authentication of His divinity is the Resurrection.

    The cross has become the symbol of the Christian faith for two reasons. First, Jesus died on a cross as an atonement for sin. Also, it is vry hard to create a symbol from an empty tomb.

  6. sharkbytes
    sharkbytes says:

    Hi Bruce- I thought I would see your response to my comment here, but it doesn’t seem to show. Anyway… I just wanted to thank you. So far you seem to be the only person who thought the trip to Italy was funny!

  7. castocreations
    castocreations says:

    What a neat story. And the pictures are amazing!

    The Palestinians can go to hell for all I care. Until their leadership stops asking for the destruction of the Jews and they stop training their children to be suicide bombers … their plight is their own fault.

  8. StevieKate
    StevieKate says:


    I too am interested in what seminary you attended. I can’t seem to decipher what part of your comments are rants and raves and which you believe to be true. I am truly interested.


    I hope that you will care about the fact that those who are now training their children to be suicide bombers were once taught everything that they now know when they were children themselves. I do believe that they are responsible for their actions, as we all are, but we are each a product of our environment. They need education, not condemnation.

  9. RojenU
    RojenU says:

    The image gives an eerie feeling but at the same time awaken my interest. It is such a weird way to manifest some things: as you said in that post, to resist oppression and other kind of things.

    Last night, i watched a Canadian film about the “black swan” and this reminds me as well as this post that people from all over the world have varied ways of letting something noticed.

  10. Laugher
    Laugher says:

    You gave a detailed description and a good historical background to really understand what and how this tradition and practises went into reality.

    These days, what people see are the uniqueness and attractive effect of things or events or of an edifice but without looking back at the real reason of the existence of these things, it’s like we don’t see it at all. Great info and the photos are provocative.

  11. Susan
    Susan says:

    I have visited the hill of crosses in Lithuania and the thing that stuck me the most was the sounds of the crosses in the wind. Like a million small wind chimes sending people’s prayers toward heaven. Walking around the site was quite amazing.

  12. Bob
    Bob says:

    I like your blog. Do you want to exchange links? email me or go to my blog and leave a message in my CBox. Thanks.

  13. Rob
    Rob says:

    This was remarkable. I’ve never heard of this before, but the image and background behind it were fascinating.

  14. Kendra
    Kendra says:

    I’m sorry, but i disagree with this. I’m all for the use of symbolism in teaching and daily life, but this appears to be a source of obsession. Doesn’t anyone see the focus on this hill of crosses becoming their religion? When the symbol becomes the focus of our efforts, it’s no longer just a symbol- it’s an idol.

  15. Arlene deWinter
    Arlene deWinter says:

    This is amazing! I didn’t know about this. Thanks for enlightening me about a powerful tradition.

  16. Daniel
    Daniel says:

    I kind of agree with you Kendra. There are some religions that seem to focus on the cross, or Mary or the Saints. I’ve often wondered what would happen if it were all stripped away, if the followers were to walk into their churches to find it all gone. Would worship continue as normal? I often wonder the same of my church. If we were to remove the music, the youth activities…(I guess we don’t have all THAT much to take away) but if all we were left with was the Word, would we still have followers? I think of the Christians in China and other places that risk their lives by simply meeting in a basement- I doubt their focus is on a shrine lit with candles.
    The hill is indeed very impressive, and for the locals perhaps a voice of defiance against invaders. But it’s still just a hill full of crosses. If the emphasis is on the cross, it certainly loses its appeal. There are a million different ways they could have killed Jesus. The way He was killed was horrible but would it have been any less horrible coming in a different form? If the focus has shifted from WHO CREATED the cross, and most importantly what happened AFTER the cross, why is there any focus at all? Praise God He DID rise! Am I wrong for not caring so much about the insrument of his death?

  17. Damien
    Damien says:

    The cross is certainly meaningful to me. I’m a Christian as of 1991 when i was 21. I’ve met some truly whacked out people who wear crosses since then but lucky for me, I know it’s true meaning.

    Great site btw but you need an about page. “Christian” might as well mean “car” with the many cults and dervatives out there today.

    Do you get many hateful comments? If so, how do you handle them?

    Last thing: what is your profession of faith?

    Ok 3rd degree officially is over. 😉

  18. Dr.Bruce
    Dr.Bruce says:

    Nice to meet you Damien. The ‘About’ page is here – It has a different title.

    I trusted Jesus Christ for salvation when I was 19 (1979) and have been a pastor for almost 30 yrs with six different churches. I am a Christian in the biblical sense.

    Hateful comments happen occasionally. Jesus tells us to turn the other cheek and to return kindness for hurt. I try to live up to those standards. There is a good and growing community here that is diverse. I don’t have to defend myself as others typically do that for me.

    Deep respect for seekers and people that disagree solves most issues. I have only had to delete 3 posts in the last 2 years months because they were just too offensive.

    If someone is cranky, my hope is to start a dialogue with them and engage them with the truth of Scripture and the love of God.

  19. william hessian
    william hessian says:

    amazing photos. I’ve never heard of this place. It is quite surreal. Thanks for sharing it with us.

    You know, I also find the cross to be a very odd symbol, as a symbol of death. Although, its nice to know a tool known as a tool of destruction of pain, can have its image ressurected through faith as an image of love, hope, faith and ressurection.

    while I am not a practicing christian, the cross is effective as a symbol, as a symbol of balance and power. It makes me think of addition, as a plus in mathmatics. My personal feeling might be shaped by the world around me, growing up in a semi christian family.

    Great post.

  20. delish
    delish says:

    wow… would love to see this hill live… great pic (a tad creepy for me but still awesome and beautiful) and great blog post 🙂

  21. Heartbeat Monitors
    Heartbeat Monitors says:

    Very informative article, great explanation and photos. Thank you for sharing such excellent information

  22. Gediminas Tamutis
    Gediminas Tamutis says:

    Hi:) I live 10 KM from Hill of Crosses and i dont see lots of tourists in the city only there:) please visit us and bring a cross( dont forget to write on it where it came from) bye:]

  23. David
    David says:

    How far back in history would you like to go?

    But let’s start with World War I — the warring parties Germany, Austro-Hungarian Empire, and Ottoman Empire versus rest of world. We all know that Germany and Austro-Hungary lost but don’t realize the impact of Ottoman Empire being a loser. The most prominent Muslim at the time was Mufti of Jerusalem, Haj Amin al Houseini. He went around formenting resistance to the Brits and French and starting various resistance groups, notably the Ba’ath Party (Saddam Hussein — ring any bells?).

    In any event, Haj Amin roamed around causing trouble until WWII. But the Ottoman Empire was still broken up into various countries based on geography. Territory in the Middle East is based on tribal/clan ownership — not a pencil line demarking spheres of European influence.

    Who were the warring parties in WWII? Germany, Italy, Japan versus rest of world to include France and the UK who had substantial holdings in MIddle East. The Middle East more or less allied itself with Germany who promised to remove the Brits/French and let the Arabs (Muslims) do what they wanted (create smaller/larger nations). Haj Amin spent most of WWII in Berlin advising Hitler and the Nazis on how to find Jews and how to speed up the extermination process. He even went so far as to forming a Muslim Brigade in what would be Yugoslavia to hunt Jews.

    WWII ended with Haj Amin on the run as a war criminal. He went around the Middle East still formenting trouble. The Brits either didn’t want to catch him or didn’t try hard enough.

    He ended up in Cairo where he adopted his nephew, Mohammed Abdel-Raouf al-Husseini (otherwise known as Yassir Arafat who learned anti-semitism from his uncle).

    When the Israelis agreed to a two-state plan in 1947, the Arabs rejected it. It was actually a multi-state plan since Israeli territory was to be non-contiguous. When the Brit Mandate expired and Israel declared the creation of the State of Israel, the Mufti of Jerusalem ordered all Muslims out of the territory (statless people, war refugees, Palestinians — same thing). Muslims were not to become Israeli citizens, not to vote in Israeli elections, not pay taxes, etc.

    After the war, the Israelis asked the ‘stateless’ to come back. They had to take Israeli citizenship not the Jewish religion and continue to work, create goods, farm the land, live in the cities/towns/villages and rebuild what had been destroyed due to war — same as the Israelis.

    They chose to remain outside Israel and in the camps. Israel did not take over the abandoned property but held it in trust, earning interest. When a displaced person returns as long as he takes Israeli citizenship, he/she gets the property (farm, cottage industry, whatever) plus interest. After so many years, and changing names and aliases, can any displaced person legally claim any property? That’s a matter for the courts to decide. But to ‘claim’ that Israelis stole the property is absurd — for the most part, they sold it to the Jews prior to WWII and prior to 1948. The Jews/Israelis had hard currency and the Arabs/Muslims wanted/needed hard currency. The Israelis bought scrub land and turned it into irrigated farmland. The formerly unused land now converted to productive land and purchased by the Israelis is what the stateless people want to steal — something for nothing.

    Many Muslims left their homes, farms, cottage industries. The Muslim/Arab armies also lost the Arab-Israeli War of 1948. They also refused to return home. Egypt would not accept their fellow Arab/Muslims; neither would Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, or any other country. So the refugees became stateless, living in camps run by the UN who pays them $500 per family per month.

    On Monday the UNWRA (UN War Refugee Agency) visits Camp A and pay Abdul $500, On Tuesday they visit Camp B and pay Akbar $500 (who is really Abdul but in different garments — I witnessed this at 3 camps but they refuse to have either photo id for UN relief payments or fingerprint id).

    The money goes to support the family (very little) and Hamas, Al-Fatah, and PLO, and NFLP. Manhood is defined by how many weapons you own and how many Israelis you kill not by how well you take care of your family or are a father, husband, brother.

    The PLO answered this by saying that anyone who martyrs himself/herself goes to Paradise and gets $6000 for the family on earth.

    They are not Palestinians — that word was invented by the Romans.

    They are either Canaanites or Philistins or Phoenicians.

    In the movie ‘The Kingdom’ — two groups of people gave the same advice — we will kill them all (Jews/Westerners or Muslims). That advice echos a command given to Joshua that when he entered the Promised Land, he was to kill all the inhabitants since they had defiled the land and were an abomination in the sight of God.

    As for what the Nazis and Russians and Poles and ______ (fill in the blank) did with their pogroms and policies of extermination or expulsion (Spain 1492– England 1290– France 1182, 1306 and 1394 — Germany 1614, massacre of Jews in the UK 1190, masacre of Jews in Germany 1298, Italy creates the ghetto in 1516, expulsion from papal states in 1569 by Pope Pius V, massacre in Poland 1768, massacre in Algeria 1805, 1919 pogroms in Hungary, Prague 1952, expelled from Egypt 1956, 1968 last remaining Jews from Poland, their will be justice.

    Jesus (Yeshua) was a Jew, was probably married as was the custom for 12, 13 year olds at the time, and would probably be surprised to see what people have done now in His name.

    Recall or know that Adolf Hitler was a professed Catholic (non-practicing I would imagine).

    Now they are selling garden gnomes giving a Nazi salute in Nuremburg.

    What a world!

  24. carmel
    carmel says:

    Christianity may be burned many times… it will still survive!
    its not about the people anyway… its about HIM (Jesus)!
    thanks for posting.

  25. sandy
    sandy says:

    This is a fabulous story, and wonderful picture. This proves what has been proven over and over again in many places, in many ways. You can NOT dampen the spirit. The spirit lies within and is very powerful.

    Beautiful post, thanks for sharing

  26. 2012 Doomsday Predictions
    2012 Doomsday Predictions says:

    Wow.. nice picture.. it should be a very religious place
    I wonder how many crosses are there?

  27. sage
    sage says:

    I think the picture is awesome, maybe one day i will visit. The cross to me is a symbol of
    life and death,physical and spiritual, a reminder of how cruel people can be when you do not follow the popular belief. we can learn from the symbolic meaning of the cross. But it seems only a few will.

  28. Candice
    Candice says:

    this is such a beautiful expression of devotion. I would love to visit this site one day and experience the connection with so many who went before me who adore Jesus.

  29. zenas
    zenas says:

    Thank YOU for this article. Today i saw a couple of hill of crosses fotos in my church video ( Scotsdale first assembly of God in Arizona) was moved in spirit.
    i was reading comments and whoever wason the hill in windy day, really can be moved by the sound around. Like chimneys the crosses singing praises to the Lord or craing out the pain, that we, humans, have in this not perfect world.

  30. lithuanian observer
    lithuanian observer says:

    blah blah wow…
    jesus and jew lovers get over yourselves! Alot of IGNORANT brainwashed comments most of which are politically or religiously warped perspectives, i aint judging any of you fools but if anyones done with your petty arguments and praising,

    THE REALITY OF THIS PHOTO IS: that lithuanians culture along with the symbol of the cross pre dates any christian jewish or muslim religion,
    fact is that these religions stole the mythological storys and symbols from pre existing cultures to justify wars duhhhhh….

    FYI these crosses are representation from the pagan times IN: lithuania (before gods sent “crusaders” who came slaughtering anybody that didnt love jesus!)
    back when people belived and praised the SUN! CERTANLY not any roman tourture devices or such, YET still to this day people shamelessly hold there holy day on SUN day the pagans most important “god”,


    dont belive me? google “lithuanian crosses” and tell me what you think they represent

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. sunday SONday | Wild Olive Shoot says:

    […] The Hill of Crosses, Lithuania […]

Comments are closed.