Lithuania was the last pagan country in Europe. Multiple attempts to convert Lithuanians to Christianity were in vain, until the Christianization of the country occurred in 1387. It was a long and complicated process but today it is deservingly called a land of crosses. They have become the most sacred and popular symbol in people’s lives and cross-crafting as a vital lasting form of folk art. From the middle of seventeenth century crosses, pillar-type crosses and pillared shrines sprang not only near homes but also in the fields, near the roads and rivers. Cross makers were self-taught men and anybody could make them.
Crosses were put up for different reasons: to honor the dead, to be protected from disasters or illnesses, to plead for grace or express gratitude.
This tradition was prohibited in nineteenth century when Lithuania became a part of Tsarist Russian empire and later during the Soviet times. Crosses were destroyed but not without resistance of common people. These were the darkest times but the tradition of putting up crosses survived and is on the rise today. It has become a symbol of national identity and unity.
In 2001 UNESCO declared the Lithuanian cross-crafting ” Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity“.
One of the most impressive places in Lithuania where your eyes can feast on thousands of crosses of various sizes and shapes is the Hill of Crosses: the representation of unshakable faith and a symbol of resistance against occupation.