Up before sunrise, a part of the day we haven’t seen in a long while. But why, I hear you ask? To pinch a few onions from the field, nah! To avoid the crowds, we are off to see the Hill of Crosses. Personally, I’d never heard of it until Craig enlightened me…”its an hill with crosses on it”. His enlightenments make me chuckle!
In need of further enlightenment, I did a bit of digging about the place. In 1831, the Soviet oppression started to sweep across country destroying all traces of Lithuanian tradition and religious practices. Anyone failing to obey the rules were deported to Siberia. It is around this time the first large cross was placed on a tiny hill in the middle of the countryside. By 1863, the intensity of the Soviet rule increased and all visible traces of the Lithuanian identity were destroyed. By this time, the little hill was covered in over 150 large crosses.
Through two world wars and numerous battles the ritual site remained unknown to the outside world. The number of crosses continued to increase until 1961 when the Soviets discovered and destroyed the site completely. Crosses reappeared only to be bulldozed down again and again and again. In 1991, Lithuania gained independence and by 1993, the hill of crosses was once again covered in crosses. That same year, Pope John Paul II held mass on the site.
Click on the images to enlarge pictures.
It is only a small walk from the car park to the site and the sun was just rising. The cold dawn air had a fresh, cool feel to it. As we got closer to the hill the chill increased. To be honest, it feels more like a small hump in the middle of nowhere than a hill. It felt weird and spooky but as we got closer, the sheer volume of crosses just piled on top of each other was really quite overwhelming. Think about the oppression and what the people went through made you realise how determined the Lithuanians really are.
Crosses of every shape and size, some carefully erected and others just piled high but no matter where you looked it was a sea of wooden crosses. Rosary beads and ribbons of faith hanging from anything and everything. It was strange but beautiful. As we walked over the hill, the eerie thing wasn’t the silence, it was the faint voices. When I first heard the voices it freaked me out until I could see hidden under a few crosses an old radio transmitter. We have no idea what it was saying but it sounded like an old world war announcement. We walked around reading the comments and saying a few prayers of our own.
A unique place, after 1991 new life has been breathed in to the hill and its become a symbol of the nations unshaken faith, its past suffering and hope. By the time we got back to Vin, the sun was shining and time to start the day
Our Bumble Verdict: The Hill of Crosses, Lithuania is one of those weird, surreal places but definitely worth a visit.