Siauliai, Lithuania

Šiauliai is the fourth largest city in Lithuania, with a population of 129,075. It is the capital of Šiauliai County. Unofficially, the city is the capital of Northern Lithuania.The city was first mentioned in written sources as Soule in Livonian Order chronicles describing the battle of Saule. Thus the city’s founding date is now considered to be September 22, 1236, the same date when the battle took place, not far from Šiauliai. At first it developed as a defense post against the raids by the Teutonic and Livonian Orders.

After the battle of Grunwald in 1410, the raids stopped and Šiauliai started to develop as an agricultural settlement. In 1445, a wooden church was built. It was replaced in 1634 with the brick church which can be seen in the city center today.

Kryžių kalnas, or the 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.

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