Outside the small city of Siauliai, in Lithuania, is a hill. On this hill are more than 100,000 crosses. Some are simple crosses, made from wood or metal. Others are large and ornate, made from marble or granite. Many Catholics and other Christians come here every year to visit the site and worship.
People believe that the first crosses were placed on the hill during the peasant uprisings between 1831 and 1864. During this time, Lithuania fought for freedom from the Russian Empire. Over 30,000 Lithuanian men were killed by Russian forces. The Russian government did not allow the men’s families to give them proper burials. The people put up the crosses to remember the men who had died. The crosses also gave them comfort and helped them remember their God.
After World War II, the crosses became even more important to the people. Germany invaded Lithuania during the war. After the war, Lithuania became part of the Soviet Union. The Soviet Union had a national policy of atheism. This means that the government wanted the people to stop believing in God. Many churches were torn down or burned. It was against the law to worship or talk about religion in public.
The people of Lithuania believed in Christ. Most of them were Catholic. They kept putting crosses on the hill. The Soviet government bulldozed the hill three times. The government put trash and sewage on the hill. The people didn’t care. They quietly cleaned up the hill and put more crosses up.
Finally, in 1994, Lithuania won its freedom from the Soviet Union. The people were so happy. They put many crosses on the hill to show their gratitude. Today, a monastery has been built near the hill. Now people can worship in public. They can pray and talk about Christ.
Fun Facts about the Hill of Crosses for Kids
- Though called the Hill of Crosses not only crosses or crucifixes are placed on the hill. People have left thousands of tiny effigies and rosaries as well as statues of the Virgin Mary and different Lithuanian patriots.
- The Hill is a display of the Lithuanian belief in Catholicism. It is also proof of the peaceful endurance of that belief and the determination of the people.
- It was rumored that the Soviet government had also planned damming a nearby river so the Hill would end up under water and inaccessible.
- Pope John Paul II visited the Hill in September of 1993. He declared it a place of peace, love and sacrifice.
- Now there is no government or entity with jurisdiction over the Hill so it is open to everyone and anyone who wants to visit and leave crosses if they choose.
The Hill of Crosses Vocabulary
- Ornate: fancy, detailed
- Christian: someone who believes in Christ
- Worship: pray and honor God
- Peasant: a poor person; common people
- Atheism: believing in no God or after-life
All About the Hill of Crosses Video for Kids
Check out this cool video all about the Hill of Crosses for kids:
This is a video about how the Hill of Crosses in Lithuania came to be.
The Hill of Crosses Q&A
Question: Can anyone put a cross on the hill?
Answer: Yes, the hill is open to the public and anyone can place a cross there.
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