The Hill of Crosses
The Hill of Crosses is one of the most special places we will visit on our Divine Mercy pilgrimage. The Hill of Crosses is a small hill were thousands of Catholics place a cross and say a prayer for their personal intensions. The Hill of Crosses is a solemn testimony to the suffering, endurance and love of Lithuanians for their Catholic Faith.
The origin of the custom of placing crosses on the Hill of Crosses is unclear but it is proposed that this tradition began after the 1831 Uprising of the Polish and Lithuanians Armies against the Russians. After the battle, the Lithuanians were often unable to find the body of their loved ones so they began placing a cross on the fort hill and pray for their souls. This custom continues to this day.
Lithuania has always lived under the oppressive violence of the Russians, only gaining total independence from Russian in 1991. As a result of this, their Catholic Faith had been banned or severely curtailed on many occasions throughout its long, troublesome history. But the Hill of Crosses endured, in spite of the Russians best efforts to destroy this holy site. In 1967 and 1975, the Russian Army sent bulldozers to the Hill of Crosses and destroyed the site, removing every cross. But every time, the Lithuanians would continue their custom of placing a cross on this special hill, sometimes at night, and before long the Hill would be covered in crosses again! In 1993, the Hill of Crosses was one of the sites which Pope John Paul II visited on his famous tour of Lithuania. He was deeply moved by the Hill of Crosses and what it symbolised for the Catholic Faith and the suffering which was endured by generations of faithful Catholic Lithuanians.
Tens of thousands of Lithuanians turned out to greet Pope John Paul II when he stopped to pray at the Hill of Crosses. He famously told the congregation that day, “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”.
In 2000, a small Franciscan Order opened a chapel near the Hill of Crosses and we will have an opportunity to attend Mass. The chapel is beautifully design because the wall behind the alter is a glass window looking out to the historic and holy Hill of Crosses. After Mass you will have some time for personal prayer in this chapel or you can walk around the Hill of Crosses and place your own cross. Near the Hill of Crosses, there are a few small shops where you will have the opportunity to buy some crosses which you can place on the Hill and make your own petitions. Everyone is always deeply moved by their time at the Hill of Crosses as it is a symbol of the inextinguishable light of our Catholic Faith and the unrelenting but fruitless efforts of our enemies to destroy the Catholic religion.