Sacred or scary: the Hill of Crosses in Šiauliai

Monika Grinevičiūtė | Live the World

November 23, 2022

Many magazines and travel websites over the world mention the Hill of Crosses in Šiauliai as the scary, gloomy, and even a haunted site. The magazine Condé Nast Traveler introduced this Lithuanian pilgrimage area among 20 scariest places in the** whole world. However, this site was rebuilt from ashes many times, reborn as a Phoenix bringing the hope to all Lithuanians. Thus, is Hill of Crosses in Šiauliai sacred or scary?** 

© iStock/wrangel

The early beginning 

The Hill of Crosses in Šiauliai is spread on the area where, during the 14th century, used to lie the defence castle later set on fire by the Teutonic Knights. It is believed that the first crosses on this hill appeared during the mid-1800s after the Polish - Lithuanian November Uprising against the Russian Empire, in 1831. After the second missed attempt to gain independence from the Tsar oppression, more and more crosses were put as a reminder of the victims and a symbol of hope

© iStock/MNStudio

Reborn as a Phoenix

During the Soviet occupation, anti-religious rules were applied. Churches across Lithuania were usually used as warehouses. People attempting to practice religious services were persecuted, thus no surprise that some hill full of crosses was a big headache for Soviets. So, they sent bulldozers to devastate the hill, but Lithuanians were placing crosses back again during the night. This silent resistance is a great example of Lithuanians fighting for the freedom to have their own identity. 

© Flickr/Yodod

A place for hope and prayers

If you are scared of any religious items - churches, crosses or monks, the Hill of Crosses in Šiauliai could be spooky for you. Otherwise, please note that it's the largest sacred pilgrimage site of Lithuania. People are coming there to pray for their families, or to put their handmade crosses with their names engraved. Also, you could ask, why crosses then? The answer also comes from our ancestors. The art of cross-crafting in Lithuania is a true cultural heritage, cherished for centuries and included in the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage List

© iStock/Wylius

Nowadays, it is estimated that the Hill of Crosses has more than 100,000 various crosses. Every visitor can place its cross at any time, so the numbers are always growing. To take religious items from the  Hill of Crosses is forbidden, however, to put yours is always allowed. If you do not have any cross you would like to leave on the hill, you can buy one from the merchants located next to the site. Also, near the Hill of Crosses, there is a modern monks' chapel, opened for visitors. Thus, do not forget to cross by

© iStock/Rob_Rye

Looking from a different angle, the Hill of Crosses in Šiauliai is a sacred place for hope and love. Nothing there is scary or spooky. As Pope John Paul II said during his visit of the Hill of Crosses in 1993: "It is a place for hope, peace, love, and sacrifice." No matter your religious beliefs, the Hill of Crosses in Šiauliai is opened for everyone's hearts. 

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