Skip to content
9 June 2017 / leggypeggy

Hill of crosses honours fallen rebels

Hill of crosses, Lithuania

Hill of crosses, Lithuania, totem

If you’ve read my most recent post, you’ll know I was knocked over in Brussels the other day by a teenager trying to escaped from the police. I’m still very sore and bruised, but the muscles and joints are slowly improving. Nothing seems to be broken, and I’m hoping that I’m good to go tomorrow on our week-long bicycling trip in northwestern France.

But you wonderful people have been amazing. I’ve been gobsmacked by all the kind messages that I’ve received on that blog post (and on Facebook too). I think you’ve all helped (willed) me to heal.

So as a thank you and before I set out on the French cycling tracks (with probably no connection), I thought I’d share a hill of crosses (and blessings) with you.

Entering the Hill of Crosses

Entering the Hill of Crosses

It’s a fantastic and uplifting story.

Back in 1831, in Lithuania, there was an uprising against the Russian tsar. The uprising was put down. Sadly, the families of the fallen rebels ended up with no bodies to bury. So they started to leave crosses on a special hill (perhaps the highest hill in all of Lithuania).

I have to admit that the hill isn’t very high. We scanned the horizon and saw nothing. And then drove around aimlessly even though it was ‘plugged into’ our car’s GPS. If you ever happen to be searching for it, try keying in ‘kryziu kalnas’ instead of ‘hill of crosses’. That was what finally worked for us, and we found that reference on a local map.

Hill of crosses

Crosses being forgotten

But back to the hill.

This place is amazing. It’s impossible to know how many crosses are here today, but estimates assume there are more than 200,000. I suspect there should/could be many more. I read that when the crosses started to become a symbol of resistance to the communist regime, the KGB had the hill bulldozed twice.

As you enter the site, there is a long list of rules and regulations about what crosses can be left. They can be made of wood, metal or many other substances. They shouldn’t be more than 3 metres tall.

We saw hundreds of small crosses draped over larger crosses and assumed they were added, not on a whim, but as a convenient place to hang a cross.

There are crosses to commemorate the young (so touching) and the old, and there are crosses from all over the world. Poor John spotted one from Nebraska, my home state.

But there are more than crosses. Statues of the Virgin Mary, carvings of Lithuanian patriots, and thousands of tiny effigies and rosaries have been brought here by Catholic pilgrims.

Hill of crosses

Loads of crosses in one place

Pope John Paul II visited the hill in 1993 and declared it a place for hope, peace, love and sacrifice. I really appreciate those thoughts. In 2000, a Franciscan hermitage was opened nearby.

Important tip: If you plan to visit and don’t need to go to the toilet or buy a cross, don’t pull into the carpark. Park on the verge outside and enjoy your time strolling through the crosses.

P.S.: Poor John and I are heading out tomorrow on a week-long bicycling trip around Brittany. I have no idea whether there will be internet connections. So don’t worry if you don’t hear from us for a week or more. If it goes beyond that—worry and send reinforcements!

69 Comments

Leave a Comment
  1. H.Le / Jun 9 2017 7:22 am

    I always love the back story behind every site! Thank you, and get well soon! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • leggypeggy / Jun 9 2017 10:01 pm

      Thanks so much. I liked the back stories too.

      Like

  2. magarisa / Jun 9 2017 7:24 am

    Enjoy your cycling trip!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. panhirsch / Jun 9 2017 7:31 am

    What a touching place! I have been to a similar site in Poland – Grabarka, yet the reasons for having so many crosses there was quite different. Enjoyed the photos! Have a great trip!

    Liked by 2 people

  4. shehannemoore / Jun 9 2017 7:31 am

    Hope you are feeling better . We need you to keep on your travels you know x

    Like

    • leggypeggy / Jun 9 2017 3:44 pm

      I’m hoping the cycling goes well. Don’t plan on falling off the bike.

      Like

  5. Ken Berry / Jun 9 2017 7:40 am

    Yes, I’ve seen the place before, though only on TV… I hope the cycling trip goes well — though I well recall the title of a rather mournful French song which is a comment on the common weather in Brittany: “Il pleut sur Nantes…” (It’s raining in Nantes…)

    Liked by 1 person

    • leggypeggy / Jun 9 2017 3:45 pm

      It was raining in Brussels so maybe not in Nantes. 🙂

      Like

  6. Sherry Thomas / Jun 9 2017 7:49 am

    Have fun, feel better and yes I would send reinforcements…myself of course. Love to you,

    Sent from my iPad

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Sharon Bonin-Pratt / Jun 9 2017 8:25 am

    One of the most touching photos essays I’ve read seen. To be vigilant in honoring the fallen, to stand against tyranny, and to be present for the living and the souls of the dead – what an amazing memorial.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Catnip Blog / Jun 9 2017 2:19 pm

      Shari,
      You echo my impression and said it more eloquently than i could so I have no words to add.

      Liked by 2 people

    • leggypeggy / Jun 9 2017 3:46 pm

      It is a remarkable place, and so good that it is being appreciated by many.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Frank Prem / Jun 9 2017 8:33 am

    All the best with your recovery and the rest of the trip Peggy.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Brian Lageose / Jun 9 2017 8:51 am

    Love the Mother and Child with all the draped crosses and rosaries…

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Deb / Jun 9 2017 8:58 am

    Wow that’s amazing, what a touching story and all those crosses! That statue with all the crosses on is quite astounding. And to think it’s been bulldozed twice and resurrected. Quite a site to see.

    Liked by 2 people

  11. Chris Riley / Jun 9 2017 9:00 am

    We have a relative who cycles everywhere he goes. He gets to experience the countryside so much more than we do travelling by car. I’ll be interested to hear how you enjoy the experience, but do take it easy, and enjoy – I hope the weather gods are kind to you.

    Liked by 1 person

    • leggypeggy / Jun 9 2017 4:08 pm

      Poor John cycles everywhere. Me, not so much. Hoping for good weather and will be looking after my arm.

      Liked by 1 person

  12. Dippy-Dotty Girl / Jun 9 2017 10:18 am

    I missed out your post on the fact that you were hurt. It is quite upsetting, so hope you are feeling better now. Also, that is quite a story behind the hill of crosses.

    Liked by 1 person

    • leggypeggy / Jun 9 2017 4:09 pm

      I’m improving and hoping the bike ride goes well. The hill of crosses is extraordinary.

      Liked by 1 person

  13. gerard oosterman / Jun 9 2017 10:18 am

    Glad to hear you are on the mend. Will you have a GPS when cycling?

    Liked by 1 person

    • leggypeggy / Jun 9 2017 4:10 pm

      We’ll have maps but no GPS. We’re told it’s quite easy riding. I sure hope so in my diminished capacity.

      Like

  14. Vicki / Jun 9 2017 11:03 am

    This place looks fascinating (and as good as a cemeteries which I find most interesting). Take care on the cycling trip and don’t forget to watch out for foreign bodies heading in your direction (at great speed).

    Liked by 1 person

    • leggypeggy / Jun 9 2017 4:11 pm

      The hill is an extraordinary place. Very sobering and touching.
      PS. I plan on taking it very easy.

      Like

  15. Midwestern Plant Girl / Jun 9 2017 12:02 pm

    I’m glad to hear you’re up for a long bike ride. Enjoy and post pix later! 😃

    Liked by 1 person

    • leggypeggy / Jun 9 2017 4:11 pm

      Don’t know whether I’m up for the ride, but It’s a flexible plan so I should be able to manage.

      Liked by 1 person

  16. Invisibly Me / Jun 9 2017 1:12 pm

    I’m glad to hear nothing’s broken, and I hope that the bruises and soreness ease up soon and that you’re able to go on that bike ride. Just take it easy! This is quite a spectacular place, almost haunting if I’m honest, but truly fascinating. x

    Liked by 1 person

    • leggypeggy / Jun 9 2017 4:13 pm

      It was an extraordinary place to visit. Very moving and, yes, haunting. I’m still sore and hoping the bike ride isn’t too strenuous.

      Liked by 2 people

  17. The Whitechapel Whelk / Jun 9 2017 4:06 pm

    You’re going cycling now???
    Well, have fun but do try to keep off the Castlemaine XXXX before you push off from the kerb.
    Glad to hear you’re on the mend 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • leggypeggy / Jun 9 2017 4:13 pm

      Want the truth? Poor John is a slave driver. He paid for this months ago, so we’re going.

      Liked by 1 person

      • The Whitechapel Whelk / Jun 9 2017 5:12 pm

        Look! Do you actually WANT Poor John to hire another young ‘hit-runner’ to send you a-sprawlin’?
        Tsk 😦

        Like

      • leggypeggy / Jun 9 2017 9:55 pm

        Are you applying for the job?

        Like

  18. lmo58 / Jun 9 2017 6:26 pm

    Hi Peggy, Of great importance: are you going to be using electric bikes or just normal ones? I hope electric. I’m expecting photos of you on your bike srrounded by a sea of red flags. Peggy alert! Peggy alert! The Hill of Crosses is very poignant and touching. It just goes to show how determined people of good heart can successfully challenge even the most ruthless regimes. Take care and please don’t fall off your bike.

    Liked by 1 person

    • leggypeggy / Jun 9 2017 9:48 pm

      We’re considering an electric bike for me, and I promise to try not to fall off any bike. The crosses are amazing.

      Liked by 1 person

  19. spearfruit / Jun 9 2017 8:03 pm

    I think if I visited this place, I would not be the same afterwards. Just the pictures alone moved me. Thank you Peggy for the wonderful pictures and have a fun and safe cycling trip next week. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • leggypeggy / Jun 9 2017 9:49 pm

      Thanks Terry. It is a very moving display and set in the middle of nowhere.

      Liked by 1 person

  20. poshbirdy / Jun 9 2017 9:18 pm

    What a beautiful place. Have a great trip in France and stay safe

    Liked by 1 person

    • leggypeggy / Jun 9 2017 9:49 pm

      Thanks so much. In St Briec now, heading to Gouarac.

      Like

  21. Lauren / Jun 9 2017 10:33 pm

    Beautiful pictures. This looks like such a cool place. Glad you are starting to feel better and hope you enjoy Brittany.

    Liked by 1 person

    • leggypeggy / Jun 10 2017 2:07 am

      Thanks so much. We have arrived in Brittany and start cycling tomorrow. The countryside looks so green and welcoming.

      Like

  22. beetleypete / Jun 9 2017 10:44 pm

    A very unusual site to visit, Peggy, but no less rewarding than many better known ones. Most interesting. Enjoy Brittany, one of my favourite places. I recommend a diversion to Fort La Latte, and not to miss the local pancakes in Quimper..
    Best wishes, Pete.

    Liked by 1 person

    • leggypeggy / Jun 10 2017 1:36 am

      We’re in the campground in Gouarec tonight and heading out on the bikes tomorrow. Quimper isn’t on the route, but our itinerary highlights plenty of creperies.

      Liked by 1 person

  23. afterthelasttime / Jun 9 2017 11:30 pm

    Good to learn you are quickly mending, no doubt your ride through Brittany will bring many terrific entries for you!
    Thank you for this “Hill of Crosses”, impressive!

    Liked by 1 person

    • leggypeggy / Jun 10 2017 1:37 am

      Mending slowly and glad the first day of bike riding is only 15 kilometres.

      Like

  24. pvcann / Jun 9 2017 11:39 pm

    I love this testimony to human integrity, it rises like a phoenix from the ash of political abuse, hope.

    Liked by 1 person

  25. forwardtogloryquartet / Jun 10 2017 2:39 am

    I was wondering if you’d make it here. We didn’t, as we traveled by bus. Much more extensive than I thought. Great reportage!

    Liked by 1 person

    • leggypeggy / Jun 10 2017 5:09 am

      Thanks. It’s huge. Covers the hill and extends way beyond.

      Like

  26. lulu / Jun 10 2017 7:39 am

    What an incredible sight. I would have spent several hours there trying to take each cross in and imagining the story it tells.

    Liked by 1 person

    • leggypeggy / Jun 10 2017 3:17 pm

      I know what you mean. But to take in every cross would probably take months—there are about 200,000. 🙂 That said, many are plain crosses, with no indication of the story behind them, while others a very detailed.

      Like

  27. dfolstad58 / Jun 10 2017 2:20 pm

    I enjoy the information you share on your posts because they are places that I am interested and different from what tourists usually go to period have a great ride let me know how you like the electric bike.

    Liked by 1 person

    • leggypeggy / Jun 10 2017 3:20 pm

      Thanks so much. We get to the out-of-the-way places because we usually travel by road and that allows us to explore. Glad you appreciate my choices to post here. Every now and then I sneak in something like the Eiffel Tower that everyone has seen, at least in photos.
      P.S. Having the test ride today—on the ordinary bike—of 15 kilometres. Hoping I can manage okay.

      Liked by 1 person

  28. Phil Huston / Jun 13 2017 6:15 am

    Absolutely amazing. More amazing? Every one of those crosses has a story wrapped in sadness and spiced with hope.

    Liked by 1 person

    • leggypeggy / Jun 13 2017 11:33 pm

      Such a beautiful comment, Phil. We’ll never know the heartbreak attached to each of those crosses.

      Like

  29. jeanleesworld / Jun 13 2017 8:51 pm

    I often feel like such places help one listen to the Spirit, and sense the divine holding our hands. Lovely post, my friend. Glad you’re feeling okay!

    Liked by 1 person

    • leggypeggy / Jun 13 2017 11:35 pm

      I think it’s especially wonderful that people from all over the world can come here and honour their fallen loved ones. No wonder it has survived and grown for almost two centuries.

      Liked by 1 person

  30. Hemangini / Jun 15 2017 12:53 am

    Whenever I pass one such places I have this feeling that the air is filled with voices trying to tell you something. Love the post and the pictures inspired many many stories in my heart. Thank you so much for this one..

    Liked by 1 person

    • leggypeggy / Jun 15 2017 12:56 am

      You are so very welcome. I’m sure the air there is filled with voices of all ages, genders and nationalities.

      Like

  31. adventuredawgs / Jun 18 2017 9:29 am

    I’m glad that you’re recovering and hope that your two-wheeled trip has much less excitement than your Brussels trip. Those photos of the crosses are so touching and humbling.

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: