Lithuania’s Hauntingly Beautiful Kryžių Kalnas, or the Hill of Crosses

This all started with a single post by my lovely friend:

This hauntingly beautiful photo evoked a somber mood. It’s a sea of wooden, stone, and metal crosses, some piled one upon another. Why are there so many crosses there and what inspired people to put so many crosses in this very place? I needed to know more.

History of the Hill

“Occupied by the Teutonic Knights in the 14th century, Šiauliai rallied around a common goal of resisting foreign invaders. Citizens and military officials began placing crosses on the hill of Kryžių Kalnas as a visual representation of their uprising. By the 1800s, the site contained over 150 crosses. By 1940, the number had grown to 400 large crosses and thousands of smaller versions.

Šiauliai was heavily damaged during its capture by the Germans in World War II. Throughout the Soviet occupation and rebuilding effort, Kryžių Kalnas remained a staunch statement of Lithuanian nationalism. Despite the repeated removal and burning of the crosses and even the leveling of the hill itself, pilgrims would return to replace crosses and return the hill to its status as a sacred landmark.

Today, there are hundreds of thousands of crosses on Kryžių Kalnas. Some were placed by native Lithuanians and others by visitors who wished to pay homage to the hill’s intent. There are crosses of all materials and sizes, ranging from over three meters tall, to tiny versions hanging like ornaments from the larger crosses.” [Source: Katerina Papathanasiou | Vale Magazine]

A short video tour

A quick search locates many travel blogs, magazine articles, wikis and historical reviews of this site as it’s been a curiosity to many from afar for ages. View the Gigapan (huge) panoramic image – it’s like being there during a time when we can’t actually travel to a place like this!

Estimates suggest as many as a hundred thousand crosses currently stand on The Hill of Crosses in Lithuania. Marking the loss of rebels who fought against outsider rule, the hill was torn apart by authorities, but built back up by resilient locals. While the many photographs (and videos) I found online cause this to appear as an eerie attraction, dangerous to traverse and a bit spooky, it seems that it’s actually a sacred space, and also a place of Lithuanian pride. If you have traveled here, I would love to hear your stories – or maybe you’ve been to another eerie cemetery or memorial? Please drop a comment below!

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