Bulldozed three or four times by the Soviet authorities, the Hill of Crosses in northern Lithuania always came back. Today, over 75,000 crosses of all sizes are found at this site
which occupies perhaps 2,400 square metres of land, spread over two hillocks, 12km north of the city of Siauliai, Lithuania’s fourth largest city.
The crosses are mainly placed here by devout Catholics who regard the Hill of Crosses as a place of pilgrimage largely because in 1993, Pope John Paul II held a mass at the site. The status of the Hill of Crosses changed forever after this visit. The Pope was extremely touched by the cross with the prayer for his health that was planted after the attempt
upon his life in 1981. He was so taken with the place that in 1994 during his visit to a Franciscan monastery of the mount of Verna (Italy), the Pope encouraged the brothers to build a monastery by the Hill of Crosses. This building was consecrated on July 7, 2000 and is built 300 metres away from the Hill and has sixteen cells.
It serves as a novitiate of the Lithuanian Franciscan province of St. Casimir, but the monastery is also open to visiting pilgrims who are just looking for solitude.
A new convent of St. Clara is also planned. In 1997, the Catholic Church revived devotions on the Hill, which take place every year on the last but one Sunday of July. The
growing importance of the Hill of Crosses mirrors Lithuania’s growing self-belief as an independent country that joined the European Union in 2004, along with its Baltic
neighbours, Latvia and Estonia.