The Hill of Crosses

Original version
Many crosses were put up after the Virgin Mary and baby Jesus appeared on the mound in the 7th decade of the 19th century; it was she who supposedly encouraged people to put crosses at this place. In 1850, there were 17 crosses on the hill, from 1895 to 1898 the number increased to 180, and in 1938 there were over 400 crosses. The number of crosses also grew during the period of Soviet occupation. One more version refers to the legend about a Lithuanian farmer and his sick daughter. “Once lived a man who had a very sick daughter who was going to die. He tried every kind of medicine and went to every doctor he could find. No matter what he did, her health just got worse. Every night, he sat by her bedside, holding her hand, wishing she would get better.One night, while sitting by her bed, he fell asleep. That night he had a dream. In his dream, a woman dressed in all white came to him and told him that if he wanted his daughter to get better he had to follow her instructions. He was told to build a large wooden cross , then to take the wooden cross across the country and place it on a hill. It would be a sign of faith and love for God, and if he did this his daughter would be healed. He had no other options at this point and decided to build the cross. He carried the cross 13 hours each way to Siauliai. Here, he put the wooden cross up on the hill. Tired and worn down, he started his long journey home. When he finally reached his hometown, his wife and daughter were both waiting for him. They had amazing news – his daughter had somehow been cured of her illness! She was out of bed, awake, and joyfully awaiting his return! The story of the miracle hill spread throughout Lithuania. People would pilgrimage to the site and place a cross on the hill hoping it would also cure their sick loved ones. It became the Hill of Crosses that performed miracles. It is told that on windy days breezes blowing through the forest of crosses and hanging rosaries produces a uniquely beautiful music.”
Alternative versions
The hill itself is on the Jurgaičiai-Domantai mound . It became a sacred site in the 19th century.The first crosses on the Hill of Crosses are believed to have been erected shortly after the November Uprising, which lasted from 1830 to 1831. During this conflict, Lithuania fought against the Russian Empire in an attempt to gain its independence. It has been claimed that after crushing this rebellion, the victorious Russians prohibited the dead rebels from being properly honored by their loved ones. Because of this, the family and friends of these rebels began erecting crosses on the Hill of Crosses. Another rebellion against the Russians, known as the January Uprising, began in 1863, and ended in the following year. Though the rebels were once more unsuccessful in their struggle for independence, there was a surge in the erection of crosses on the Hill of Crosses. One of the reasons for this is the decision by the Russian authorities to ban the setting up of crosses not only by the side of roads, but also in cemeteries. 1940 saw the beginning of Lithuania’s occupation by the Soviet Union. The Soviets were removed from the country by Nazi Germany in the following year, though they returned in 1944 and occupied the Lithuania until 1991. During the Soviet era, the setting up of crosses was prohibited, and the Hill of Crosses became a forbidden place, as it was regarded as an opposition to Soviet ideology. Three times, during 1961, 1973 and 1975, the crosses on the hill were destroyed by the authorities. The wooden ones were burned, the metal ones melted and reused as scrap metal, and the stone and concrete ones crushed and used for road construction. This act of destruction not only failed to crush the spirit of the Lithuanians, but it further strengthened their resolve, as they began to rebuild their sacred space on the hill.
Main characters
A mysterious woman in white, the Virgin Mary and baby Jesus, a Lithuanian farmer and sick daughter
Connected artistic / architectonic / historical heritage
The Hill of Crosses (known also as the Jurgaiciai Mound) is a site located in the northern part of Lithuania, about 12 km (7.46 miles) to the north of Šiauliai (the fourth largest city in Lithuania), near the village of Jurgaičiai. It is a historical and architectural monument, a unique ensemble of folk art. Its peace, spirituality, authenticity, and sacred nature attracts visitors. The oblong mound, somewhat similar to a saddle, stands on a plain and is surrounded by the valleys of Kulpė stream and its nameless tributary. The Lithuanian art of cross-crafting ( kryždirbystė) is inscribed into the UNESCO List of Intangible Cultural Heritage.
Local traditions or historical connections
Since Lithuania’s independence from Russia during the beginning of the 20th century, the Hill of Crosses has been a pilgrimage site. Although this sacred site has been visited by countless pilgrims over the decades, its status was further enhanced in 1993 following a visit by Pope John Paul II. In 1993, whilst preparing for the visit of the pope, a chapel was built near the Hill of Crosses.Today, people from all over the world come to leave a cross. Many have different reasons. Some come to place a cross on the hill in hopes of curing their loved ones who are sick..
Didactical Relevance
Hill of Crosses represent one of the peaceful ways the human rights movement in Soviet Union times showed the unbreakable spirit of local people which can start the discussion about other ways Lithuanians kept their traditions alive. This place and the legend represents the amount of faith Lithuanians put in Christianity and its importance in daily lives, it also allows the students to learn about the origin of Hill of Crosses and about its symbolism. It also may develop the curiosity of the students who would like to look for other objects inscribed in UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage. The hill itself is a mound of pagan origins which might be the sacred place for the religion before Christianity and could make a start for discussion which places and why are chosen to be sacred. The students will be able to analyse the area and the district of the mound from geographical perspective.
Didactical Activity
Direct visit on the way to the Franciscan monastery near the Hill of Crosses and chapel - Classroom activities: “Lithuanian customs and traditions in honour of the dead” ( in English lesson, religion, literature) , “ The Lithuanian art of cross-crafting and its symbolism”(in history, arts, craft lesson), “Human rights in the Soviet Union” ( in history,religion), “How to get to the Hill of Crosses” - ( e.g. from the capital Vilnius) or “How to explain to the the tourist from another country where is the Hill of Crosses”, or being there find as many crosses with non Lithuanian inscriptions. - Connections with history, art, geography, religion, ethics, literature.

Video

Go Inside Lithuania's Hill of Crosses | National Geographic
More than 100,000 crucifixes and other religious icons cover a hill outside the city of Šiauliai in northern Lithuania. The exact origins of Kryžių Kalnas, the Hill of Crosses, remain a mystery.
Kryžių kalnas (Hill of crosses)
The Hill of Crosses (Kryžių Kalnas) came to represent a place of significant meaning for all Catholics after the fall of the Soviet Union when Pope John Paul II visited the hill in 1993. While taking in the sight, the Pontiff declared the Hill of Crosses a place of "hope, peace, love and sacrifice."

Images

Path through the hill
Crosses of various size and shapes
HILL OF CROSSES in the sculpture of folkclore
Walk inside of the Hill of Crosses

External Sources

Lithuania's miraculous hill of 100,000 crosses
BBC travel article about Hill of Crosses in English
How to reach it and more
Legends swirl around the Hill of Crosses. Some locals claim that the mound conceals the bodies of 14th-century warriors, others swear that it's haunted by monks. It's more than likely that the hill was a pre-Christian worship site.
HILL OF CROSSES Religious meaning, history and etc.
The Hill of Crosses, where people not only from Lithuania have put crosses for couple centuries, witnesses faithfulness and trust of a Christian community to Christ and his Cross. This is an expression of a spontaneous religiousness of the people, and is a symbol not of grief and death but of Faith, Love and Sacrifice. From here the Pope blessed all people of Lithuania and all of Christian Europe.

PDF version of the legend in national language

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