Hill of Crosses
A big collection of crosses.
And by "big", we mean really, really big!
The Hill of Crosses, Lithuania
This seiyaku.com website hosts over a thousand different cross images, which we thought was quite a lot. But then somebody pointed to a much larger collection – a site with which we cannot possibly compete. The site is not a website; rather it's a hill, on some common land maintained by the local Roman Catholic community since at least 1831, possibly earlier.
The site is known as Kryžių kalnas (The Hill of Crosses). Thousands and thousands of crosses, all shapes and sizes, and practically impossible to count, because many are buried beneath thousands of others. The current estimate is 100,000.
In some ways it is similar to the Pont des Arts, Paris, with its proliferation of "love padlocks" that adorn the bridge, viewed by many tax-paying residents as vandalism that risks damage to the bridge and preservation of architectural heritage.
Contrary to popular belief, the padlock craze in Paris is relatively recent (mid-2000s), and a much earlier incidence can be found in Vrnjačka Banja, Serbia. That custom most probably originated from somebody's deep, ineffable feeling of love; a romantic love, in contrast to the love of peace and the love of Jesus shown by people erecting crosses on The Hill.
The surrounding countryside is generally flat, making this peculiar hill stand out even more, rather like an enormous pin cushion. The city of Šiauliai is about 12 km to the south and there used to be a defensive fort on the same hill.
During the Polish-Russian War 1830–31, there was a related uprising against Russian rule. Many Lithuanian fighters died but their bodies were often not recovered and returned to their families for burial. So it was on this hill that bereaved families placed crosses in memory of their loved ones. Other cenotaphs from other wars can be found all over the world as a reminder of the sorrow.
Relative peace returned to the area in 1918 and The Hill remained as a memorial where Christians would frequently go to pray for lasting peace.
In 1944, when Lithuania became part of the Soviet Union, the site became a political symbol of hope for Lithuanian independence. The Soviet authorities several times razed the site with heavy earthmoving machinery (as recently as 1973). But the crosses kept coming.
As with many such historical, cultural and religious sites, a certain amount of commercialism has developed. Some of it is rather sad, such as the online scams, where people are invited to send money to pay for their name to be engraved on a super-sized cross that will be erected on The Hill.
No, it won't.
The hustlers will make as much as possible before moving on to another scheme, such as the Nazareth Cross.
But not all business is bad. Tour companies and hotels provide a useful service for more people to go and visit this amazing Hill of Crosses.
As of January 2016 there were 1,949 images, many of which had more than one name; hence a total of 2,145 names. For example, the Maltese Cross is also known as St. John's Cross, a Pattée Cross, etc. The confusion increases when cross names are used for more than one image. For example, St. John's Cross can be also applied to the Celtic Cross. There is even further confusion when a cross is made up of multiple crosses, for example, the Jerusalem Cross.