The Hill of Crosses is a historical and architectural monument, a unique ensemble of folk art. Its peace, spirituality, authenticity, and sacred nature attract visitors. The oblong mound, somewhat similar to a saddle, stands on a plain and is surrounded by the valleys of Kulpė stream and its nameless tributary. The hill itself sits on the Jurgaičiai-Domantai mound with a former ancient village dating back to the 13th-14th centuries. It became a sacred site in the 19th century. It is said that the first crosses were erected here by the next-of-kin of the rebels that fell in the 1831 rebellion. The family members erected the crosses at this site because the Tsarist reign did not allow them to pay proper tribute to the graves of their relatives. Even more crosses were put up after the rebellion of 1863. At that time, the tradition of visiting and erecting crosses on the hill began to emerge. The Hill of Crosses became a place of vow making. According to another version, many crosses were put up after the Virgin Mary and baby Jesus appeared on the mound in the 7th decade of the 19th century; it was she who supposedly encouraged people to put crosses at this place. In 1850, there were 17 crosses on the hill, from 1895 to 1898 the number increased to 180, and in 1938 there were over 400 crosses. The number of crosses also grew during the period of Soviet occupation; in 1960, there were 2,500 large crosses alone.In the beginning of the 20th century, the hill was already quite well known. It was being visited by a lot of people, and services and feasts were taking place here. The Soviet government was not happy about the hill and its crosses. Thus, the “demolition” period, which lasted for almost 20 years, started. In 1958, the collective farm Meškuičiai began digging gravel on the Hill of Crosses. In 1961, the hill was surrounded by bulldozers. Wooden crosses were damaged or burnt, metal crosses were taken to the scrap dump, and stone and concrete crosses were smashed, buried or thrown into Kulpė Stream. Every year the authorities destroyed 500 crosses under the excuse that they were only taking away the crosses “of no artistic value”. Later, they announced a swine-fever and rabies “epidemic”, it was forbidden to enter the territory. The road to the hill was even guarded by police. At the end of the 1980s, it was chosen to weir Kulpė, which had already been turned into an effluent pitch of sewerage, and to flood the hill. However, new crosses kept appearing every night, and with every demolition (there were four of them), the Hill of Crosses continued to spring back to life. In 1988, the winds of change started blowing; the Hill of Crosses has become unique not only in Lithuania, but also worldwide. There are currently over a 100,000 various crosses, chapel-pillars, blessed statuettes, and pictures with chaplets dangling on them. On 7 September 1993, the Hill of Crosses was visited by the Pope John Paul II. He celebrated Holy Mass, during which he prayed for the religious martyrs of Lithuania and for all of Christian Europe. The pope called Lithuania the “country of crosses”. The Holy Father later said that the Hill of Crosses was “a special place in the world that summons up all the miseries and pain of the present century and that shines with hope of resurrection.” In 1993, whilst preparing for the visit of the pope, a chapel was built near the Hill of Crosses. It was there that John Paul II held Holy Mass, which was attended by 100,000 worshippers. The feast of the Hill of Crosses still takes place every weekend at the end of July. The cornerstone of the territorial reconstruction of the Hill of Crosses was set in place on 4 August 2006.
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