Skip to comments.Lithuanian Catholics restoring Hill of Crosses damaged by fire
Posted on 01/04/2007 1:58:19 PM PST by siunevada
OXFORD, England (CNS) -- Lithuanian Catholics have started to restore the country's historic Hill of Crosses after a fire damaged some of the smaller crosses.
"People have already begun praying and placing new crosses in the damaged area so it won't look empty and desolate for long," Meilute Pozemeckaite, a local council official, told Catholic News Service Jan. 3 in a telephone interview.
Bishop Eugenijus Bartulis of Siauliai said most of the damage was done to small crosses that can be replaced, but some of the large crosses were charred.
"Fortunately the most valuable crosses were spared, so the damage is more moral than material," the bishop told CNS Jan. 3 by phone.
Lithuanian church sources estimated that at least 200,000 crosses of various sizes were standing on the hill at the time of the Dec. 28 fire. A crucifix donated in September by Pope Benedict XVI was undamaged, they said.
Four fire brigades extinguished the blaze, which burned approximately 60 square yards, according to an Interior Ministry statement Dec. 30.
Pozemeckaite said it was believed the fire was started by candles, which are not permitted on the hill.
"This is by far the most cultural place in this part of Lithuania -- a symbol of hope for the living rather than the dead," he said.
The Hill of Crosses, seven miles north of Siauliai, is believed to mark the site of a pagan massacre and contains crosses, statues and rosaries commemorating sufferings from the communist rule and the war in Iraq.
The stationing of crosses, dating from the 14th century, began on a mass scale after an 1831 uprising against Russian rule and was revived in the 1950s by Catholics returning from Siberian exile.
The Soviet government bulldozed the site multiple times and considered flooding the area. However, the Soviets failed to deter the placing of crosses.
Pope John Paul II celebrated Mass at the hill during his 1993 pilgrimage to Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia, and he donated a large crucifix a year later.
Newly married couples traditionally leave a cross on the hill, visited annually by more than a million tourists and pilgrims from around the world.
I remember during the fall of communism there was a PBS show (Nova?) called Baltic Requiem. It centered on the Baltic states and what happened during those times. A part of it included the hill of crosses. It was very interesting.
Interesting thing is, this isn't even a "hill." It's a "mound." And it would just be a mound if the Soviets hadn't bulldozed the crosses to begin with . . . .
I'm reading a book on Fr. Walter Ciszek, a Polish-American priest from PA who went to Rome and then inside Russia just before the Second World War broke out. I just got to the part about him finally being sent to Siberia. He relates how he got to a city inside the Arctic Circle and it was 20 below in late July!
I think about that because I have a Lithuanian friend whose mother was in Siberia for 5 years courtesy of the USSR. The entire Eastern bloc suffered horribly under Stalin. May God bless those faithful people one and all for keeping their Catholic faith.
Ha! The Law of Unintended Consequences at work.
Thank you for posting this. My parents told me the stories about how the Communists would level the hill and overnight the crosses were back up.
I am reading With God in Russia. It is awesome!
BTW, I had heard stories of young Polish/Lithuanian women who made rosaries while in Siberia using tiny bits of bread rolled into beads and interwoven strands of their hair for a chain. I saw one in a local Cathedral that was on display. I was awestruck at that.
fascinating pictures, thanks for posting