If you’re a fan of religious paraphernalia, then the Hill of Crosses is definitely the place for you. Situated in northern Lithuania, just outside the city of Siauliai, the hill is home to over 100,000 crosses, crucifixes, statues and carvings brought to the site by visiting Catholic pilgrims.
Back in 1831, Lithuania was a difficult place to be. Longing for independence from the Russian Empire, Lithuanian rebels battled unsuccessfully against the Russian army, and many lives were lost. As a number of the bodies of the perished rebels could not be found, family members began placing crosses at the site of the destroyed hill fort to symbolise their loss. A further failed uprising in 1863 resulted in more lost lives, and the Hill of Crosses grew further.
The hill continued to flourish following Lithuania’s long awaited declaration of independence, and Lithuanians would visit in order to pray for peace for their country. However, in 1944 Lithuania was occupied by the Soviet Union, and many attempts were made by the Soviets to destroy the Hill of Crosses.
New crosses were removed, the site was bulldozed, and there were even rumours of plans to flood the hill by building a dam on the Kulvé River. Nonetheless, Lithuanians continued to visit and leave behind crosses and, by the time the Soviet Union collapsed in 1990, some 55,000 crosses were situated there.
Today, the Hill of Crosses continues to be a place of great importance to Lithuanians, and to Catholics across the world. Pope John Paul II visited in 1993, and a stone inscribed with his words currently rests there:
Thank you, Lithuanians, for this Hill of Crosses which testifies to the nations of Europe and to the whole world the faith of the people of this land.