Charlene Lowe Kemp
The Hill of Crosses – in Lithuanian, ‘Kryžių Kalnas’ . Situated 12 km north of the industrial city of Šiauliai in the north of Lithuania, the location itself is nothing extraordinary. Little more than a mound, the small hill rises out of a flat landscape of cattle fields, forests and grass. Nobody seems to know exactly when the Hill of Crosses began, although the local practice of raising cross memorials likely dates back as early as the 14th century.
One story goes that a Lithuanian farmer had a very sick daughter who was going to die. He tried everything, he went to every doctor and tried every medicine but no matter what he did her health become worse. Every night he sat by her bed preying for her health to get better.
One Night, while sitting at her bed, he fell asleep and had a dream. He dreamt of a women dressed in all white came 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, which he would need to take across the country and place it on a hill. It would be a sign of faith and love for God and by doing this his daughter would be healed. He decided to do this and carried the cross 13 hours each way to Siauliai. Here is where he put the cross on top on the hill. He then made his way home.
When he finally reached home, his wife and daughter were both waiting for him. His daughter seemed alot better and seemed cured of her illness.
The story of the miracle hill soon spread throughout Lithuania. People would pilgrimage to the site and place a cross on the hill hoping it would cure their sick loved ones. It became known as the Hill of Crosses that performed miracles.
Interestly, the second story relates to Lithuania’s history. They have a long and sordid past with the Soviet Union dating back to the 1800s. In the 1800s Lithuania had been occupied and was under Russia’s regime. The official religion was Russian Orthodox, and the official language was Russian. They was forbidden to practice any other religion, hang any crosses or speak any other language than Russian. The rebel fighters took up arms against the Soviet Union and fought for their freedom. Many men were killed and families could not locate their love ones bodies. Crosses was not allowed on gravesite as they was not a official sign of the Russian Orthodox Church.
Many families would place crosses on the hill to mark a remembrance to the men who had gone missing while trying to win back their freedom.
Over the centuries, not only crosses, but giant crucifixes, cravings of Lithuanian patriots, statues of the virgin Mary and thousands of tiny effigies and rosaries have been brought here by Catholic pilgrims. The exact number of Crosses is unknown but a estimate was done in 2006 that put it at 100,000.