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DAMn° magazine # 26 / HILL OF CROSSES

No Cross, No Crown On a Hill in Lithuania... In the West the crucifix is in a terrible fix. Certainly since the recent outburst of testimonies about paedophilia and accusations of the complicity of the Catholic establishment in many countries around the world. This shakes the foundations of the Catholic empire. Still the crucifix as the symbol of Catholicism stands firm on this hill in Lithuania where thousands of them spread the word. However what you see is not exactly what you get.  text VEERLE DEVOS

An estimated 50,000 to 100,000 crosses – carved out of wood or sculpted from metal, ranging from several metres tall to super tiny examples - flanked by statues of the Virgin Mary, colourful rosaries, pictures of Jesus and the saints, images of Lithuanian patriots and other Catholic paraphernalia occupy Kryžių Kalnas in northern Lithuania: the hill of crosses. It’s a sacred bordello, with all those crosses, crucifixes and Virgins mixed up together and piled to dizzying heights. As an extra, they make a wonderful music when the wind plays through them - ad nauseam. They’re brought there by pilgrims from all over the world. Nobody really knows when and why the practice of leaving crosses on this hill started. But it is said that the first specimens were left after the Lithuanian uprising of 1831 against the Russians – which utterly failed. Relatives of fallen rebels whose bodies were lost started to plant crosses of all kind on this hill, to remember their loved ones, and to enable themselves to mourn. In so doing they were reinstating a custom that dates back to the Middle Ages, when the crosses symbolised (peaceful) resistance against foreign oppressors. When the USSR occupied Lithuania (1944-1990) this prac-


The Hill of Crosses (above) Photo © Dennis Keen View from the top of the Hill of Crosses (left) Photo © Richard Tulloch Details from The Hill of Crosses (facing page, bottom) Photo © Michelle Rogers Pritzl

tice became more widespread than ever before. The Russians were not amused and mercilessly bulldozed the hill several times. Today, nobody can stop pilgrims from planting their various crosses and other religious stuff on the hill. Maybe someone should plant one against the most aggressive emperor of our time: the liberal capitalism that replaced communism and which the liberated Lithuanians (and the rest of us, poor sheep) so willingly embraced. #


No Cross, No Crown: On a Hill in Lithuania...