Thursday 26 October 2017

The Hill of Crosses in Lithuania

Of all of the religious landmarks I have seen, none of them have affected me in the same way as the Hill of Crosses has. Many temples and churches I have seen around the world seem to be intended to impress, intimidate and promote a religion. I love that they are made deliberately beautiful and as a symbol of love and respect to a God but in my opinion religion does not need to be a competitive thing and so therefore, this land mark deserves equal appreciation. It is a place founded solely on faith and a place where every religion is welcome and allowed to be represented. In fact, you do not even need to have a religion in order to leave something here, only faith is required.

The history behind the hill is a simple story. A man had searched for every medicine, sought out every doctor and tried everything possible to save his desperately ill daughter. One night he had a dream that a saint dressed all in white told him to build a wooden cross and take it across the country to this hill, it would be seen as a sign of faith to God and his daughter would be healed. So now other people visit the hill to ask something of God or to place a cross there as a sign of their belief. The site became of further significance during the years 1944-1990 when Lithuania fell under the rule of the Soviet Union. Despite the regular efforts of the Soviets to destroy the site and keep people away, the Lithuanians persistently found a way to place their crosses down on the hill. In 1993 St. John Paul II visited Hill of Crosses and declared it a place of hope, peace, love and sacrifice. He left a stone inscribed with the words "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.". The word here is "faith". It isn't just "Christianity" and that is important.

It took a long while before Lithuania allowed tourists to come to this site, it represents so much that they thought tourism would undermine it's importance. Eventually they permitted them and saw that as long as they were respectful and genuine it was okay. People can still put down crosses now as they please. Nobody has been able to count the amount but it is estimated that there are around 100,000 from all over the world. My mum and I each left a cross there.

Honestly this was a very emotional experience, to see the belief of religions so simply represented and forming something so huge was incredible. It really is undeniable evidence of people's faith surviving very challenging obstacles over the years. It is a symbol of the power of love. Our tour guide Christa was great at explaining all of this too me, I have never learnt so much on a history tour before. If you are ever in Lithuania, or even Latvia, it is more than worth driving here to see this. Red Fox Tours can help you appreciate Hill of Crosses fully.