Christian PilgrimagePilgrimages in LithuaniaJohn Paul II and Lithuania

Hail, o Cross, our victory and our hope!
Andriaus Mačiūno fotografija
Piligrimų kelias
Kryžių kalnas


In the late 19th century and early 20th century, sick people and those enduring great affliction would come to the Hill of Crosses, individually or in groups, to pray and place a cross. Pilgrims would also come even from far away parishes. But it was only during the Soviet era that it became common to make pilgrimages to the Hill of Crosses from all over Lithuania. Some, having heard about the place, even came from other lands annexed by the Soviet Union, to pray or erect a cross. Such pilgrimages, and especially the crosses raised, were challenges to the atheist authorities. Pilgrims needed faith and daring, since those who came to the Hill of Crosses risked being persecuted and punished. One frequent organizer of pious group visits to the Hill of Crosses was the Catholic youth organization known as the Friends of the Eucharist. Pilgrimages would usually begin with Holy Mass, after which participants would go in procession to the hill, singing hymns, praying and taking turns carrying a cross or shrine post. Rather large numbers of young people and students generally took part in these treks, for the organization of which several people were detained and convicted.

Pilgrimages to the Hill of Crosses became exceedingly popular during and after the struggle for regained independence. The words of the Holy Father, who visited in 1993, contributed significantly to the trend. People began coming here from all over the world. And the flow of pilgrims further increased when the Šiauliai diocese was created and the annual Hill of Crosses Indulgenced Feast was reinstated. One of the most impressive pilgrimages, in the summer of 2004, brought more than 4,000 young people to the Hill of Crosses. They came on foot from Šiauliai, where they had taken part in youth days. Annual pilgrimages from the Hill of Crosses to the Marian shrine of Šiluva began in 2003, on occasion of the 10th anniversary of the visit of John Paul II to Lithuania. The trip by foot to Šiluva takes 3 days and covers some 70 km (43.5 miles).