Three Crosses

Last updated
Three Crosses hill
Vilnius Three Crosses.jpg
Three Crosses on the Bald Hill
Highest point
Elevation 165 m (541 ft)
Prominence 76 m (249 ft)
Coordinates 54°41′11″N25°17′51″E / 54.68639°N 25.29750°E / 54.68639; 25.29750
Location Vilnius
Aerial view 3Kryziu kalnas by Augustas Didzgalvis.jpg
Aerial view

Three Crosses (Lithuanian : Trys kryžiai) is a prominent monument in Vilnius, Lithuania, on the Hill of Three Crosses (lt:Kreivasis Kalnas), originally known as the Bald Hill (Lithuanian : Plikasis kalnas), in Kalnai Park. According to a legend, which finds its source in some historic events, seven Franciscan friars were beheaded on top of this hill. Wooden crosses have been sited in the location since the early 17th century, and they became a symbol of the city and an integral part of the city's skyline.


As the wood rotted, the crosses needed to be periodically replaced. In 1916, a concrete monument was designed by Polish–Lithuanian architect and sculptor Antoni Wiwulski or Antanas Vivulskis in Lithuanian. It was torn down in 1950 by order of the Soviet authorities. A new monument created by Stanislovas Kuzma after the design by Henrikas Šilgalis was erected in its place in 1989. [1] The monument was depicted on 50 litas banknote. A panorama of the Vilnius Old Town can be observed from a small observation deck at the base of the crosses.


Lithuanian Guard of Honor near the Three Crosses in 1939 Lithuanian Guard of Honor in Vilnius near Three Crosses 1939.jpg
Lithuanian Guard of Honor near the Three Crosses in 1939

According to the Bychowiec Chronicle, fourteen Franciscan friars were invited to Vilnius from Podolia by Petras Goštautas. [2] The friars publicly preached the gospel and badmouthed Lithuanian gods. Angered city residents burned the monastery and killed all fourteen friars. Seven of them were beheaded on the Bleak Hill; the other seven were crucified and thrown into the Neris or Vilnia River. [2] Historians debate the factual accuracy of the story. It could be an embellishment of a story from Chronica XXIV Generalium about two Franciscans murdered around 1340. [3] It could also be an embellishment of a story from De Conformitate Vitae B. P. Francisco by Bartholomew Rinonico about five Franciscans martyrs. If the latter is the case, the event most likely occurred in 1369. [4]


Vilnius Old Town as seen from the top of the hill Vilnius view.jpg
Vilnius Old Town as seen from the top of the hill

Regardless of whether the legend about the Franciscan martyrs is true or not, their story spread from the early 16th century. [2] The original wooden Three Crosses were built on the Bleak Hill, the place where seven friars were beheaded, sometime before 1649. That is the year when the crosses were depicted in a panegyric to Bishop Jerzy Tyszkiewicz. Around the same time Tyszkiewicz began a case to canonize the fourteen friars. [5] There is some evidence that the crosses were built before 1636 as, according to Jan Nepomucen Fijałek, the crosses were also depicted on two silver portraits of St. Casimir that were made in 1636 and hung in Vilnius Cathedral. [5] However, the portraits did not survive and Fijałek's claim cannot be verified.

The wooden crosses collapsed in 1869 and Tsarist authorities did not allow to rebuild them. The new monument from reinforced concrete designed by Antoni Wiwulski was erected in August 1916, while Vilnius was occupied by the Germans during World War I. [6] The monument was demolished by Soviet authorities on May 30, 1950. Residents of Vilnius wanted them restored. During the Lithuanian independence movement, the monument was rebuilt on the old foundations by sculptor Stanislovas Kuzma according to the project of sculptor Henrikas Šilgalis. The monument was unveiled on 14 June 1989. [6] The rebuilt crosses now are 1.8 metres (5 ft 11 in) higher than those of 1916. Broken pieces of the old monument can be seen several meters below the rebuilt monument.

See also

Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Kernavė</span> UNESCO World Heritage Site in Lithuania

Kernavė was a medieval capital of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania and today is a tourist attraction and an archeological site. It is located in the Širvintos district municipality located in southeast Lithuania. A Lithuanian state cultural reserve was established in Kernavė in 1989. In 2004 Kernavė Archaeological Site was included into UNESCO world heritage list.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Barbara Radziwiłł</span> Queen consort of Poland

Barbara Radziwiłł was Queen of Poland and Grand Duchess of Lithuania as consort of Sigismund II Augustus, the last male monarch of the Jagiellon dynasty. Barbara, a great beauty and already widowed, became a royal mistress most likely in 1543 and they married in secret in July or August 1547. The marriage caused a scandal; it was vehemently opposed by Polish nobles, including Queen mother Bona Sforza. Sigismund Augustus, assisted by Barbara's cousin Mikołaj "the Black" Radziwiłł and brother Mikołaj "the Red" Radziwiłł, worked tirelessly to gain recognition of their marriage and to crown Barbara as Queen of Poland. They succeeded and Barbara's coronation was held on 7 December 1550 at Wawel Cathedral. However, her health was already failing and she died just five months later. Even though it was brief, her reign propelled the Radziwiłł family to new heights of political power and influence.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Hill of Crosses</span> Pilgrimage site in northern Lithuania

Hill of Crosses is a site of pilgrimage about 12 km north of the city of Šiauliai, in northern Lithuania. The precise origin of the practice of leaving crosses on the hill is uncertain, but it is believed that the first crosses were placed on the former Jurgaičiai or Domantai hill fort after the 1831 Uprising. Over the generations, not only crosses and crucifixes, but statues of the Virgin Mary, carvings of Lithuanian patriots and thousands of tiny effigies and rosaries have been brought here by Catholic pilgrims. The exact number of crosses is unknown, but estimates put it at about 55,000 in 1990 and 100,000 in 2006. It is a major site of Catholic pilgrimage in Lithuania.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Merkinė</span> Town in Dzūkija, Lithuania

Merkinė is a town in the Dzūkija National Park in Lithuania, located at the confluence of the Merkys, Stangė, and Nemunas rivers. Merkinė is one of the oldest settlements in Lithuania. The first settlers inhabited the confluence of Merkys and Nemunas in the 9th-10th century BC, at the end of the Paleolithic. On top of Merkinė hill-fort stood one of the most important Lithuanian castles, built in the 13th century, which guarded against invasions of the Teutonic Order. Merkinė was a part of a strategic triangle - Kaunas - Vilnius - Merkinė, protected with the chains of hillforts and castles. The center of Merkinė town is a state-protected urbanistic monument. Merkinė is an important point of Lithuania's domestic tourism.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Eustachy Tyszkiewicz</span> Polish noble, archaeologist and historian

Count Eustachy Tyszkiewicz, Leliwa coat of arms, was a Polish noble from the Tyszkiewicz family. He was an archaeologist and historian of the former Grand Duchy of Lithuania and White Ruthenia, then part of the Russian Empire. He is considered the first archaeologist to have undertaken a systematic study of historical sites in Belarus and Lithuania, and was highly influential on succeeding generations of archaeologists. In 1855 he founded the Museum of Antiquities in Vilnius, which is regarded as the predecessor institution of the National Museum of Lithuania. He donated his personal collection of archaeological and historical artifacts to start the museum. He was a younger brother of historian Konstanty Tyszkiewicz.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Catholic Church in Lithuania</span>

The Catholic Church in Lithuania is part of the worldwide Catholic Church, under the spiritual leadership of the Pope in Rome. Lithuania is the world's northernmost Catholic majority country. Pope Pius XII gave Lithuania the title of "northernmost outpost of Catholicism in Europe" in 1939.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Vilnius Castle Complex</span>

The Vilnius Castle Complex is a group of cultural, and historic structures on the left bank of the Neris River, near its confluence with the Vilnia River, in Vilnius, Lithuania. The buildings, which evolved between the 10th and 18th centuries, were one of Lithuania's major defensive structures.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Vilnius</span> Roman Catholic archdiocese in Lithuania

The Roman Catholic Metropolitan Archdiocese of Vilnius is an ecclesiastical territory or diocese of the Roman Catholic Church in Lithuania. Established as the Diocese of Vilnius in the 14th century, it was elevated to the rank of a metropolitan archdiocese by Pope Pius XI on October 28, 1925. It has two suffragan sees of Kaišiadorys and Panevėžys.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Church of St. Peter and St. Paul, Vilnius</span> Roman Catholic church in Vilnius, Lithuania

The Church of St. Peter and St. Paul is a Roman Catholic church located in the Antakalnis neighbourhood of Vilnius, Lithuania. It is the centerpiece of a former monastery complex of the Canons Regular of the Lateran. Its interior has masterful compositions of some 2,000 stucco figures by Giovanni Pietro Perti and ornamentation by Giovanni Maria Galli and is unique in Europe. The church is considered a masterpiece of the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth Baroque. It was funded by Michał Kazimierz Pac, commemorating a victory over the Muscovites and their expulsion from Vilnius after six years of occupation.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Kaunas</span> Roman Catholic archdiocese in Lithuania

The Metropolitan Archdiocese of Kaunas is a Latin Church ecclesiastical territory or archdiocese of the Catholic Church in Lithuania. The episcopal see is in Kaunas, the second-largest city in Lithuania. The archdiocese's motherchurch and cathedral is Kaunas Cathedral Basilica; it is also home to a Minor Basilica in a town of Šiluva, in the region of Samogitia.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Valkininkai</span> Town in Lithuania

Valkininkai is a historic town in Valkininkų (Valkininkai) eldership, Varėna District Municipality, Alytus County, Lithuania, located about 22 km (14 mi) northeast from Varėna and about 55 km (34 mi) southwest from Vilnius. At the Lithuanian census of 2001, its population was 238 and at the census of 2011 it was 229.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Nemėžis</span> Village in Lithuania

Nemėžis is a village in the Vilnius district municipality, Lithuania, it is located only about 1 kilometre (0.62 mi) east of Vilnius. It is located south-east of Vilnius along a railway.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Kalnai Park</span> Park in Vilniius, Lithuania

Kalnai Park is a 24.5-hectare (61-acre) park between the left bank of the Neris River and right bank of the Vilnia River in Vilnius, Lithuania. It lies within the Vilnius Old Town elderate near Gediminas Hill and Gediminas Tower, and is part of the State Cultural Reserve of Vilnius Castles, established in 1997. The park hosts various events, including concerts, political rallies, and sporting competitions. Its name reflects the presence of four prominent hills (kalnai): Crooked Hill, Table Hill, Bekes Hill, and the Hill of Gediminas's Grave.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Franciscan martyrs of Vilnius</span>

Franciscan martyrs of Vilnius are 14 semi-legendary Franciscan friars murdered in Vilnius, capital of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, during the reign of Algirdas (1345–77). The story was first recorded in the Bychowiec Chronicle, a generally unreliable source from the early 16th century, and was further embellished, conflated, and confused by later chroniclers and historians. Nonetheless, the cult of the martyrs spread in the 16th century. A prominent monument in Vilnius, the Three Crosses, was originally erected in their memory sometime before 1648. Around the same time Bishop Jerzy Tyszkiewicz started canonization procedures, but they were abandoned. At the advent of critical historiography in the 20th century, the story was dismissed as fictional in its entirety. However, newer research attempts to restore some credibility to the legend.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Renavas Manor</span> Building in Renavas, Lithuania

Renavas manor is a former residential manor in Renavas village, Lithuania on the bank of Varduva river. Currently it is a museum. In the manor's park grows the thickest fir in Lithuania. The manor is valued for its original interior. Renavas Manor is one of the main tourist attractions in Mažeikiai District Municipality.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Darsūniškis</span> Place in Kaunas County, Lithuania

Darsūniškis is a settlement on the Nemunas River in Kaišiadorys District Municipality, western Lithuania. The village is one of the oldest settlements in Lithuania and dates back to the 14th century.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Gothic architecture in Lithuania</span>

Lithuania is not the very centre of Gothic architecture, but it provides a number of examples, partly very different and some quite unique.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Užutrakis Manor</span> Residential manor in Užutrakis, Lithuania

Užutrakis Manor is a late 19th-century residential manor of the Tyszkiewicz family in Užutrakis, on the shore of Lake Galvė, opposite the famous Trakai Castle.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Stanislovas Kuzma</span>

Stanislovas Kuzma was a Lithuanian sculptor. His works include decorative sculptures, monuments, small sculptures, sculptural portraits, tombstones, memorials, and medals. Among them are works on sacred subjects. He worked with stone, wood, and metal, often combining materials.


  1. "Trys Kryžiai", Universal Lithuanian Encyclopedia
  2. 1 2 3 Gidžiūnas, Viktoras (1955). "Legendariškieji pranciškonų kankiniai Vilniuje". Aidai (in Lithuanian). 10. ISSN   0002-208X.
  3. Nikžentaitis, Alvydas (1989). Gediminas (in Lithuanian). Vilnius: Vyriausioji enciklopedijų redakcija. pp. 55–57. OCLC   27471995.
  4. Rowell, S. C. (1989). "Lithuania and the West, 1337–41—A question of sources". Journal of Baltic Studies. 4 (20): 312. doi:10.1080/01629778900000161. ISSN   0162-9778.
  5. 1 2 Baronas, Darius (2003). "Pranciškonų kankiniai Vilniuje: gyvoji atmintis ir kapų tyla". Istorinė tikrovė ir iliuzija: Lietuvos dvasinės kultūros šaltinių tyrimai. Acta Academiae artium Vilnensis (in Lithuanian). Vol. 31. Vilniaus dailės akademijos leidykla. pp. 51, 54. ISSN   1392-0316.
  6. 1 2 Baužienė, Morta (2010). "Kiaunorių bažnyčios architektas Henrikas Kęstutis Šilgalis. (1944–2007)" (PDF). Žemaičių žemė (in Lithuanian). 2: 66. ISSN   1392-2610.

54°41′12″N25°17′51″E / 54.6867°N 25.2976°E / 54.6867; 25.2976