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Hill of Crosses

Listed under Sacred Spaces in Šiauliai, Lithuania.

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The Hill of Crosses, located north of the city of Siauliai (pronounced shoo-lay) is the Lithuanian national pilgrimage center. Standing upon the small hill are hundreds of thousands of crosses which represent Christian devotion and a memorial to Lithuanian national identity.

The city of Siauliai was founded in 1236 and occupied by Teutonic Knights during the 14th century. The tradition of placing crosses dates from this period and probably first arose as a symbol of Lithuanian defiance of foreign invaders. Since the medieval period, the Hill of Crosses has represented the peaceful resistance of Lithuanian Catholicism to oppression.

Captured by Germany in World War II, the city suffered heavy damage when Soviet Russia retook it at the war's end. The Soviets repeatedly removed crosses placed on the hill by Lithuanians. Following each of these desecrations local inhabitants and pilgrims from all over Lithuania rapidly replaced crosses upon the sacred hill. In 1985, the Hill of Crosses was finally left in peace. The reputation of the sacred hill has since spread all over the world and every year it is visited by thousands of pilgrims.

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. An hour spent upon the sacred hill will reveal crosses brought by Christian pilgrims from all around the world. Rosaries, pictures of Jesus and the saints, and photographs of Lithuanian patriots also decorate the larger crosses. On windy days breezes blowing through the forest of crosses and hanging rosaries produces a uniquely beautiful sound.

More on the Hill of Crosses from Sacred Sites.

Written by  Martin Gray.

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