Hey there! Thanks for stopping by! I’m Stacey, and we lived in Lithuania for two years for my husband’s basketball career! Since he is Lithuanian, I got some amazing, inside views and stories on this gorgeous country.
We have been to the Hill of Crosses many times. I have also heard many stories about the hill from my husband’s family members, so I thought it would be a great idea to share those stories with all of my readers.
Here is what you should know about The Hill of Crosses
1. The Hill of Crosses currently has over 100,000 crosses from all over the world. There are actually too many to count.
2. The first cross was put there in the 1800’s.
3. There are two stories that go with the hill – a story of faith and healing & a story of nationalism and the fighting spirit of the Lithuanian people.
The first story is that a Lithuanian farmer had a very sick daughter who was going to die. He tried every kind of medicine and went to every doctor he could find. No matter what he did, her health just got worse. Every night, he sat by her bedside, holding her hand, wishing she would get better.
One night, while sitting by her bed, he fell asleep. That night he had a dream. In his dream, a woman dressed in all white came to him 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. He was then to take the wooden cross across the country and place it on a hill. It would be a sign of faith and love for God, and if he did this his daughter would be healed.
He had no other options at this point and decided to build the cross. He carried the cross 13 hours each way to Siauliai. Here, he put the wooden cross up on the hill. Tired and worn down, he started his long journey home.
When he finally reached his hometown, his wife and daughter were both waiting for him. They had amazing news – his daughter had somehow been cured of her illness! She was out of bed, awake, and joyfully awaiting his return!
The story of the miracle hill spread throughout Lithuania. People would pilgrimage to the site and place a cross on the hill hoping it would also cure their sick loved ones. It became the Hill of Crosses that performed miracles!
4. The second story: For those of you who do not know a lot about Lithuanian history, they have a long and sordid past with the Soviet Union dating back to the 1800’s. In the 1800’s, Lithuania had been occupied and were under Russian regime. The official religion was Russian Orthodox, and the official language was Russian. They were forbidden to practice any other religion, hang any crosses, or speak any other language other than Russian in public.
During this occupation, in both 1831 and 1863, the Lithuanian people formed a rebel army and tried to take back their country. The rebel fighters took up arms against the Soviet Union and fought for their freedom.
Many men were killed, and families could not locate the bodies of the men who had died. Also, if they did locate the bodies, crosses were not allowed on grave sites as they were not the official sign of the Russian Orthodox Church. So many families would place crosses on the hill to commemorate the men who had gone missing while trying to win their freedom!
5. After WWI, in 1918, Lithuania regained its independence from the Russian Empire. The hill’s popularity started to grow, and by WWII there were over 400 crosses on the hill. During the period between WWI and WWII, the hill was mainly used as a place for devotion, miracles, and prayer, attracting Lithuanians from as far away as the Baltic Sea.
6. After WWII, in 1944, Lithuania fell back under the Soviet Socialist Republic Empire, much to the dismay of the Lithuanian people. During this time of occupation, the Lithuanian people would pilgrimage to the hill as a sign of rebellion against the Soviets. The hill became a symbol of Lithuanian nationalism.
7. Secretly, the Lithuanian people started leaving wooden crosses on the hill. As the word of the hill grew, more and more people would sneak through the forest at night and leave wooden crosses. The Russian government forbid anyone, punishable by exile to Siberia, to place any more crosses in the area; however, the crosses just kept appearing.
Nothing they could say would stop the Lithuanian people!
8. The hill was destroyed by the Russians, three different times (1961, 1973, and 1975), in an effort to stop the people from expressing their Lithuanian religion and nationalism. All of the crosses were burned or turned into scrap metal. The whole hill was then covered with trash to discourage the people from placing any more crosses on the site.
Fun fact: Lithuania gained its independence from Russia in 1993. YES, 1993! Can you believe that? The hill became a remembrance of the oppression and the strong will of the Lithuanian people.
Today, people from all over the world come to leave a cross. Many have different reasons. The Lithuanians will always remember this site as a sign of strength and belief that they would overcome and once again be their own nation!
9. Two special crosses can be found at the hill.
The first one is of sitting Jesus. It was designed as a symbol of those who believed in Jesus and were Catholics but were not allowed to openly worship under the Russian government. So they designed the sitting Jesus who is sitting inside His house (under the roof) worshiping in secret. Notice His very sad face. If you visit the Hill of Crosses, you can still buy these handmade, sitting Jesus statues. Pick one up – they are said to bring good luck.
The second, special cross can been seen front and center on the hill. In 1993, Pope John Paul II came to Lithuania. The Pope visited the Hill of Crosses during his visit. He was so impressed with the hill that he donated a large, beautiful, metal cross with a marble base. The base is inscribed and signed by the Pope as a message to the Lithuanian people. The inscription thanks the Lithuanians for their belief in the Church and belief in their faith.
10. The visit of Pope John Paul II was a HUGE event for the Lithuanian people. It was the first time in many years that they had been free from Russian regime. They were finally allowed to openly worship the Catholic Church. Thousands upon thousands of Lithuanians came to the Hill of Crosses to see the Pope and celebrate their newfound freedom!
So if you are in Lithuania, this is a must see on your visit – they have lost count of how many crosses are there now, but it reaches the hundreds of thousands! It is an amazing place, almost magical, as you walk through the hundreds of thousands of crosses. You can feel the proud spirit of Lithuania at your back!
Is there anything else I can help you with on your travels to Lithuania?
Do you need a hotel room? If you are staying in Vilnius, my suggestion would be the Vilnius Center Apartments; you can book here – Booking.com. These apartments are fully equipped with kitchens and living rooms. Some even have nice patios to enjoy the Lithuanian sunshine! They are not in the old town center, so they have ample parking spaces, and they are owned by a local Lithuanian family who would do anything to help you during your stay!
What to see, do, or eat in Lithuania, click the link! OR –> Viator does tours and day trips all over Lithuania , and they have handpicked the best things to do and see. Click the links to see our recommendations.
Do you need a car?
Our go to car company around the world is, Fox Rent a Car. We have compared many car rental places and have found that they consistently have the best prices. They also have a wonderful loyalty program for return customers.
Need a Flight to Lithuania?
Check out JetRadar to compare the best flight options, and prices from around the world.
Good to know:
Lithuania is part of the European Union and Schengen Zone. Anyone able to travel to Europe without a visa is allowed in Lithuania for up to 90 days with just a passport. Please remember – when coming to Europe, your passport must be valid 90 days past your date of departure. If you need to update your passport, you can check here – RushMyPassport.com
Did you know that Lithuanian is one of the oldest spoken languages still left in the world today? Do you want to learn a little Lithuanian before you go? We use Pimsleur Language Programs
for all of our language needs.They are currently offering a free language lesson, so check them out by clicking on the image below.
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