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Located in the city of Siauliai in Lithuania is the Hill of Crosses, Kryziu Kalnas. As noted, "Standing upon a small hill are many hundreds of thousands of crosses that represent Christian devotion and a memorial to Lithuanian national identity. The Hill of Crosses is a solemn testimony to the suffering, endurance, and love of Lithuanians for their Catholic Faith." No one is quite sure about the origin of the custom of placing crosses on the Hill of Crosses but it's believed this tradition began after the 1931 uprising of the Lithuanian and Polish armies against the Russians. Following the battle, Lithuania lived under the oppressive violence of the Russians, only gaining its total independence in 1991.

During Soviet occupation of the area, which lasted from 1944 to 1991, the Hill of Crosses became a symbol, it seems, of defiance. Three times during the Soviet occupation, the hill and its crosses were bulldozed. Despite these attempts to end the symbolism of this site, both locals and pilgrims once again began erecting crosses.  The exact number of crosses is unknown, but estimates put it at about 55,000 in 1990 and 100,000 in 2006. Thousands visit the site each year with the most famous occurring in 1993 when Saint John Paul II arrived to dedicate the site. His words are etched on a stone marker at the foot of the rise: "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 the land." A hermitage has been constructed nearby to assist visitors and the faithful are welcome to add their contribution to this unusual Hill.

Today, the crosses number in the hundreds of thousands. This nearly eerie place attracts both locals and tourists. This little hillock has long been a potent symbol of suffering, hope, devotion, and the undefeated faith of the Lithuanian people. Walking among numerous crosses, some decorated with devotion to loved ones, one can hear rosaries rattle in the wind. [Wikipedia]

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