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Island of the Dolls, Mexico Sedlec Ossuary, Kutna Hora, Czech Republic
Hill of Crosses, Lithuania - Scary Places Around The World
657    Dibyendu Banerjee    02/02/2021

It feels uncanny and spectral to walk through the ghostly ground containing hundreds of thousands of crosses, pegged haphazardly on the ground on a desolate hilltop in rural Lithuania. The mysterious Kryziu Kalnas, or the Hill of Crosses, located about 12 km north of the city of Šiauliai in North Lithuania, containing thousands of metal and wooden crosses, along with statues of the Virgin Mary, tiny effigies and rosaries, has been a site of a Catholic pilgrimage for nearly two centuries, signifying the peaceful endurance of the Lithuanian people despite unwanted threats throughout history. With dangling rosaries chime in the blowing wind and providing a rolling soundtrack for icons of Saints and photographs of Lithuanian patriots, it remained home on the growing mound of religious passion.

hill of crosses lithuania

Although the local legends and folklores tinted the history of the Hill of Crosses, it is estimated that the crosses started appearing after the uprising of Lithuania against the Russian Empire in 1831, known as the November Uprising, when the ensuing battles resulted in extensive casualties of the Lithuanians.

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Finally, in 1863 when the Tsarist authorities outlawed the erection of crosses on roadsides and in cemeteries as part of their general rejection of religion and religious symbols to suppress the national identity of the country by limiting religious expression, the aggrieved families were forbidden to honour the dead with proper burial in cemeteries. Consequently, people took a roundabout way to pay homage to the fallen by leaving the crucifixes haphazardly on the unassuming hilltop. However, it is believed by many that the crosses started to crop up, when an apparition of the Virgin Mary advised the people to cover the place with the holy icons. The initial trickling of the mourners, due to the fear of the Russian rulers, soon turned into a flood of crosses and pilgrims, when the original name of the hill was changed from Jurgaiciai to the Hill of Cross.

hill of crosses lithuania

However, the political structure of Eastern Europe fell apart with the proclamation of the newly independent State of Lithuania on 16 February 1918, and Lithuania was admitted to the League of Nations in 1921. Consequently, the Hill of Crosses became a free place to be used as a holy place for the Lithuanians, a place to pray for peace for their families, for the country, and for the soldiers who lost their lives during the War of Independence.

hill of crosses lithuania

But it was a short respite, which was disturbed by the onset of World War II, after the end of which Lithuania was occupied by the Soviet Union until it regained independence in 1991. During that period, the Hill of Crosses again became a forbidden place as religion remained banned in the country. Even, during a late-night operation in 1961, the crosses were bulldozed and burnt on the site, the concrete structures were crushed, and the metal items were salvaged and melted down, leaving the hill bare.

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They destroyed the hill four more times, and each time the site was rebuilt under the cover of darkness, despite the risk of obvious danger.

hill of crosses lithuania

With the independence of Lithuania in 1991, the prohibition of practicing religious rites was lifted in the country. The Hill of Crosses achieved the glory to become a popular International destination when Pope John Paul II visited the site in 1993, held a mass there, and declared it a place for hope, peace, love, and sacrifice.

hill of crosses lithuania
Aerial view of-the Hill of-Crosses

Today with an estimated 100,000 densely-packed crosses, along with hundreds of holy statues and rosaries, which continue to increase every year, the Hill of Crosses has also become a creepy attraction for tourists. Marked by the unpaved passages through the maze of crosses and resounding with the chiming rosaries on the crosses, the Hill of Crosses is an unusual and eerily beautiful place to visit.

Island of the Dolls, Mexico Sedlec Ossuary, Kutna Hora, Czech Republic
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Author Details
Dibyendu Banerjee
Ex student of Scottish Church College. Served a Nationalised Bank for nearly 35 years. Authored novels in Bengali. Translated into Bengali novels/short stories of Leo Tolstoy, Eric Maria Remarque, D.H.Lawrence, Harold Robbins, Guy de Maupassant, Somerset Maugham and others. Also compiled collections of short stories from Africa and Third World. Interested in literature, history, music, sports and international films.
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