The Hill of Crosses (Kryzių Kalnas in Lithuanian) is a pilgrimage site for Lithuanians, eighty percent of whom are Catholic. Atop a small hill, located 12 kilometers north of the city of Šiauliai, are thousands upon tens of thousands upon hundreds of thousands of crucifixes of all different sizes, carvings of Lithuanian patriots, statues of the Virgin Mary and thousands of tiny effigies and rosaries placed here by Christian pilgrims. It is also a national symbol of resistance and survival.
The Hill of Crosses is a curious phenomenon. No one manages or organizes it -- it just is. However, it has had a troubled and mysterious history that is tied to centuries of oppression suffered at the hands of invaders. Several times in its history, the hill has been completely razed and devotees have defiantly replaced the destroyed crosses.
No matter how much one reads on the Hill of Crosses, nothing prepare truly prepares you for the astounding sight of all those crosses sitting on a hill in the middle of an open field. I was even less prepared to deal with the emotions that washed over me as I watched a constant stream of people clutching crosses in their hands, trying to find that one spot to place it in. I was truly touched by their devotion.
Šiauliai is located about a two-hour drive from the capital city of Vilnius but we drove from Riga, Lativa – it’s actually a shorter distance.