Updated 2006-12-08

Path: Starting Page > Galleries > Lithuania > Sad Memories

Sad Memories

Restoration of the destroyed Virgin Mary’s Church in Vilnius

The Lithuanians have endured a harsh and cruel history, suffering under many occupants. Various powers have wanted to ban the language, schools and traditions, deported the people, shot and pillaged. But in some way the Lithuanians have risen again every time, with their ancient language and their traditions intact.

The Soviet power banned all religious practises and wanted to completely erase all memories of the past. All literature from free Lithuania was banned, as well as newspapers and songs. Not mentioning the Bibles! Those who dared to keep a Lithuanian flag were foolhardy and could be very sure to be sitting in KGB’s cellar the next day, looking forward to ten years imprisonment. Children were taught not to sing nationalistic songs, as they could easily get the whole family deported to one of the innumerable death camps along the Trans-Siberian Railway.

This is the lowest level. Click the images to enlarge!

Hill of Crosses
  Special Memorials
  The Papal Visit
  The Augustine Church
  The Bernadine Monastery
  The Church of Virgin Mary, 2001
  Bullet holes, memories of a failed coup
  The Missionaries Church
  Church, 1992

Hill of Crosses - Kryziu kalnas

The Hill of Crosses near Siaulai is a memorial to the pain over those who gave their lives in the fight against Communism, in the 1863 revolution and in the Partisan war between 1944 and 1956. It all started when three graves were found after people killed in the 1863 revolution and crosses erected over them. It’s been adding ever since. The hill has about a million crosses, but as visitors continue to hang their own small crosses on the larger ones it is quite impossible to estimate the real number.
A strange tale is told about the hill: In the sixties the Communists wanted to erase the hill in the typically Communist way, by running it over with a bulldozer. No one wanted to do it, but finally one man volunteered and ran down all the crosses. The man died a mysterious death soon after, and the man who ordered the destruction saw his children roll into a lake and drown, locked inside a car. He himself died soon after. People put all the crosses up again in the nights and no one touched the hill any more.

Hill of Crosses, entrance

This fantastic, almost surrealistic sight greets you at the entrance to the Hill of Crosses. The hill has spread and the main entrance is now surrounded by crosses on all sides.

Hill of Crosses, statue of Christ

An enormous statue of Christ leads you on the man path, towards the Madonna.

Hill of Crosses, entrance

You walk up the steps and your head twists and turns to see all the crosses. Still, you don’t understand.

Special Crosses and Memorials

Hill of Crosses, many different crosses

Some distance into the jumble the enormous amounts and the richness of styles take you in.

Hill of Crosses, many different crosses

There are old and new crosses, crosses from today and from the 19:th century.

Hill of Crosses, many different crosses

An indescribable jumble.

Hill of Crosses, many different crosses

Department of ancient crosses, perhaps over a hundred years.

Hill of Crosses, many different crosses

An indescribable jumble.

Hill of Crosses, many different crosses

There are paths going everywhere so you can walk around and see all parts of the hill.

Hill of Crosses, many different crosses

An indescribable jumble.

Hill of Crosses, ten white crosses

Ten white crosses. If anyone knows the symbolics, please tell me.

Hill of Crosses from afar

From the Papal chapel the hill looks like this. It continues far to the left and right outside the picture.

Hill of Crosses, special crosses

A lone, small cross, perhaps a foot high, which does not contain any less loss and pain then the big ones. Perhaps the donor was poor?

Hill of Crosses, special crosses

Blue and yellow crosses, almost Swedish.

Hill of Crosses, special crosses

All figures are hung full of innumerable smaller crosses and rosaries, left by people wanting to show their respect to those who gave their lives for the fatherland.

Hill of Crosses, sculpture

The Lithuanian art of sculpture is very special, and here are many examples. Just look at the wrinkles of sorrow in the forehead of this one.

Hill of Crosses, special crosses

Some crosses are very artful. This is a Lithuanian sun-cross, a mixture of pagan and Christian tradition.

Hill of Crosses, special crosses

Little “chapels” for burning incense, filled with pictures and rosaries.

Hill of Crosses, special crosses

Another “house”, also brimming with memories.

Hill of Crosses, brick cross

The ultimate in uniqueness must be a brick cross. Perhaps built by a brick-layer, or in memory of a brick-layer?

The Visit of Pope John Paul II in 1993

Hill of Crosses, the Pope’s cross

The Pope gave his own cross to the Hill at his visit. It is placed in front of the entrance. Yes, I have fixed the colours.

Hill of Crosses, the Pope’s chapel

The chapel is some distance away from the Hill. It was erected for the Pope, for holding the mass.

Kaunas, 1992

The Soviet power banned all religious practice and used the churches to other things.

Ruined church in Kaunas

We happened to “come by” a wedding in a church in Kaunas in 1992. As you can see from the picture, the church has not been restored and it is evident that the Red Army had used it for target practice.

The Desecrated Bernadine Monastery in Vilnius, 2004

The Bernadine Monastery is built together with St. Anne’s Church in Vilnius. St. Anne’s escaped completely unharmed, whereas the monastery is utterly destroyed inside Rumour has it that the students at an art college in Vilnius got the monastery as practise space in the Communist days, to practise painting frescoes, which is why it looks terrible inside. I guess they used something else than brushes for painting, such as sledgehammers. The monks had been deported long ago.

Vilnius, The Bernadine Monastery, facade

The exterior is without flaw

Vilnius, The Bernadine Monastery, belfry

The belfry is nice. Yes, it’s fine on the outside.

Vilnius, The Bernadine Monastery, black altar

A black altar with lots of broken walls around.

Vilnius, The Bernadine Monastery, interior

But inside, oh the misery. Everything that once was, has been rebuilt in wood, to enable...

Vilnius, The Bernadine Monastery, interior

you to see what it once looked like, awaiting proper restoration.

Vilnius, The Bernadine Monastery, organ

The organs seem quite “toothless”. Some of the pipes are probably stolen.

Vilnius, The Bernadine Monastery, rescued statues

Two statues hidden away and rescued.

Vilnius, The Bernadine Monastery, cracked side chapel

A cracked side chapel with pieces of paintings in the roof. We should be very grateful for Vladas Drema’s book “Vilnius Lost” (Dinges Vilnius) from which all restorers can get pictures and drawings of all the churches destroyed by the Communists.

Vilnius, The Bernadine Monastery, hole in the wall

The hacked large holes in the wall. What can you see inside? Nothing, actually.

Vilnius, The Bernadine Monastery, restored frescoe

They have uncovered some paintings underneath the white, although this was black from age.

Vilnius, The Bernadine Monastery, restored frescoe

I have helped them a little with Photoshop. It is some sort of cartoon with text balloons.

Vilnius, The Bernadine Monastery, white ceiling

The ceiling is being cleaned.

Vilnius, The Bernadine Monastery, interior 2006

In 2006 the work had progressed. The many scaffolds...

Vilnius, The Bernadine Monastery, interior 2006

were removed and work had proceeded to finishing the walls.

The Desecrated Virgin Mary’s Church in Vilnius

In Virgin Mary’s Church restoration work was going on as before without much difference visible inside. Walking by, one could hear the restorers banging away like poltergeists inside the walls. Small fragments of the original decorations were left. The Soviets hadn’t managed to destroy it all, but in all places where religious figures had been, terrible holes were gaping in the walls. It wall just as much about terror as about erasing the past.

Vilnius, Virgin Mary’s Church, ruined facade

Virgin Mary’s Church beside the Franciscan Monastery was manhandled by the Communists. The exterior is decayed, with plaster coming off. Restoration has begun.

Vilnius, Virgin Mary’s Church, ruined interior

The main aisle looks bad. There is almost nothing left of decorations and ceiling paintings. The restorers will have a hard job.

Vilnius, Virgin Mary’s Church, a repaired chapel

Only one chapel was somewhat restored in 2001 and could be used.

Vilnius, Virgin Mary’s Church, detached art

There are loose parts leaning against walls everywhere. This is a relief that escaped the destruction in some way.

Vilnius, Virgin Mary’s Church, detached art

The holy family looking down at the misery, in the form of restorers’ sketches.

Vilnius, Virgin Mary’s Church, horrible corpse finds

A horrible picture of what was dug up in the church during renovation: lots of human bones, remains of murdered people.

Vilnius, Virgin Mary’s Church. San Damiano’s cross.

The San Damiano Cross, showing that this is a Capuchin church, hangs above the altar.

Vilnius, Virgin Mary’s Church. St. George and the dragon.

On one pillar I found some sort of St. George and the dragon. Slightly faded, but I helped out a little.

Vilnius, Virgin Mary’s Church, restored wall

See what a restorer can do with a shovel and some paint.

The Desecrated Missionaries Church in Vilnius, 2005

The Missionaries Church stands where Rasu Street from the airport turns into Vilnius on Subacius Street. You always pass it riding the airport bus. According to my source it should be restored inside, but the doors are nailed shut.

Vilnius Missionaries Church, front

It is reported to be very beautiful inside. It was restored in the 1980’s but how much is unknown.

Vilnius Missionaries Church, detail

Old man with book, statue on the front. Moses perhaps? Vilnius Missionaries Church, silhouette Nice silhouette, actually the best picture of this church.

Vilnius Missionaries Church, from the drug store

Viewed from the narrow part of Subaciaus Street. The drug store building is to the left.

Vilnius Missionaries Church, drug store door

The entrance to the drug store, joined with the church. The church is also conjoined to an old monastery, later turned into hospital. The hygiene was so bad that that he Communists liked it a lot. It’s closed now. There seems to be a mental health ward left (as observed from the outside).

The Desecrated Augustine Church in Vilnius, 2005

The Augustine Church on Saviciaus Street in the Old Town looked a junk yard for along time. The fence was nailed shut and the yard was full of planks. In 2005 something started to happen. It was possible to enter the yard. Watch this space for news!

Vilnius Augustine Church, front

This church is so big it was difficult to get on one picture with a 28-mm lens. The yard is simply too small. The cars belong to the neighbours.

Vilnius Augustine Church, rocket tower

It looks like a four-stage rocket and has a good chance of becoming an Old town beacon.

Vilnius Augustine Church, side

You can’t get inside and have a look. The door is mailed with giant medieval nails and the windows covered with black material and steel bars.

Vilnius Augustine Church, front/side

It will look grand when it’s finished. It is amazingly high. It seems to be built for the visual effect.

Vilnius Augustine Church, corner

It is badly dented, but something is about to happen. Vilnius Augustine Church, bush on the roof Bushes are growing on the roof. There’s a lot to do here.

Bullet Holes in a Wall - Memories of a Failed Coup

After having freed themselves from the Soviet power by democratic means, Lithuania was hit by a coup d’Etat in March 1990, in the true Perestroika spirit. The Nobel Peace Prize laureate, president Michail Gorbachev sent tanks into Vilnius to retake the country - his granary - for all the free food. The coup failed miserably, mostly because of the people's determination and will to use their bodies defending the city's most important points. Many had to give up their lives, run over by tanks or shot with machine guns. The Soviets took over the city's largest newspaper printer, Spaudos Rumai, the Printing Palace. A spray of bullets hit the facade.
Maybe the enthusiasm over freedom has waned. In 2006 the bullet holes were covered by an advertisment. Advertisement money unfortunately weighs heavier than history. The following images are historical.

Vilnius, the Printing Palace with bullet holes

Guarded by a Lithuanian flag, the bullet spray sits in the facade over the entrance to the printer's.

Vilnius, the Printing Palace with bullet holes, close-up

They may seem insignificant, the pieces of lead stuck in the plaster, but not for those guarding the entrance, with their bodies as the only means of resistance.

Path: Starting Page > Galleries > Lithuania > Sad Memories

To the Starting Page