It is estimated that over 100,000 crosses have stood on this hill. Beginning in 1831, when Poles and Lithuanians rebelled against Russian authority on a dirt hill fort, the bodies of the perished rebels could not be found. The crosses began to appear, like the roadside crosses along our southern highways as a reminder that a life was once here, and was taken. Since that time thousands of crosses have appeared on the hill. The Soviets bulldozed that site at least three times, the last time was in 1973. But, although the Soviets worked hard to remove the crosses, it remained as a venue of peaceful resistance. During the Russian occupation of Lithuania, which is what my book is about, in 1944 to 1990, the crosses increased demonstrating the Lithuanians’ allegiance to their faith, their Lithuanian heritage. They kept their eyes on the cross.
In 1993, Pope John Paul II visited the Hill of Crosses and declared it a holy place of hope, peace, love and sacrifice. A stone inscribed with his words is nearby saying, “Thank you, Lithuanians, for this Hill of Crosses which testifies to the nations of Europe and to the whole world the faith of the people of this land.”
The hill is under no jurisdiction. Everyone is free to carry their cross to the hill. As we all are. With Lent arriving on Wednesday, the cover of my book will remind me to keep my eyes on the cross and carry my own crosses freely and willingly.
I invite you to view a video about the Hill of Crosses. Wednesday I will add an extra blog (I don’t usually blog Wednesday) to explain the devotion of Stations of the Cross which I’ll begin on Thursday. I invite you to join me on my Thursday and Monday blogs for the next few weeks, while we visit the fourteen Stations of the Cross.