Pious Vacation Option: Get Lost in a Forest of Crosses

Atlas Obscura
Your Guide to the World's Hidden Wonders
March 31 2014 9:28 AM

Lithuania's Remarkable Hill of Crosses

Atlas Obscura on Slate is a blog about the world's hidden wonders. Like us on Facebook, Tumblr, or follow us on Twitter @atlasobscura.

Should you ever feel the urge to be surrounded by Christianity's best-known symbol, head to the Hill of Crosses in northern Lithuania.

Crosses have been accumulating on the mound of this former fort since the 14th century, when Teutonic Knights of the Holy Roman Empire occupied the nearby city of Šiauliai. New crosses tend to appear during periods of occupation or unrest as symbols for Lithuanian independence. This was particularly evident during a peasant uprising against Russian control in 1831, when people began placing crucifixes in remembrance of missing and dead rebels. By 1895, there were 150 large crosses on the site. In 1940, the number had grown to 400.

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During the Soviet occupation, which lasted from 1944 to 1991, the Hill of Crosses was bulldozed three times. Each time, locals and pilgrims returned to put up more crosses. The site achieved worldwide fame among Catholics when Pope John Paul II visited in 1993 to thank Lithuanians for their enduring symbol of faith.

There are now approximately 100,000 crosses on the hill. The faithful are welcome to add their contribution, in whatever form they wish — a crucifix made of Lego recently joined the collection.

More crosses to bear:


View Hill of Crosses in a larger map

Ella Morton is a writer working on The Atlas Obscura, a book about global wonders, curiosities, and esoterica adapted from Atlas Obscura. Follow her on Twitter.

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