The Hill of Crosses
The Hill of Crosses, Kryzių Kalnas, located seven miles north of the small industrial city of Siauliai is the Lithuanian national pilgrimage center. The small hill has thousands of crosses, and they represent both Christian devotion and a memorial to Lithuanian national identity.
Siauliai was occupied by Teutonic forces during the 14th century, and the tradition of placing crosses dates from this period, probably starting as a symbol of Lithuanian defiance of foreign invaders. Since the medieval period, the Hill of Crosses has represented the peaceful resistance of Lithuanian Catholicism to oppression. In 1795 Siauliai became part of Russia but was returned to Lithuania in 1918.
The city was captured by Germany in World War II, and suffered heavy damage when it was retaken by Soviet forces. From 1944 until Lithuania's independence in 1991, Siauliai was a part of the Lithuanian Soviet Socialist Republic of the USSR, and during this time the Hill of Crosses became an expression of Lithuanian nationalism, despite the Soviets repeatedly removing Christian crosses placed on the hill.
Three times between 1961 and 1975 the hill was levelled and the crosses destroyed. But each time local residents and pilgrims from all over Lithuania replaced them. The arrival of glasnost meant that after 1985 the Hill of Crosses was no longer desecrated, and it has now become both a celebration of Lithuanian nationalism and international pilgrimage.
For more information and photos visit Sacredsites.com (on which the text above is based) and Englishrussia.com (whose photos are used above with thanks), and watch this YouTube video of the Hill of Crosses while ignoring the cheesey opening music.
Now visit another green hill far away.
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This one silently pays homage to the servicemen/women needlessly killed in Iraq and Afganistan.