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Cross Crafting and its Symbolism in Lithuania

Lithuania (supported by Latvia) 

The traditional crafting of wooden crosses reflects local village cultural identities, beliefs and ceremonies. It probably originated in the 15th century, after the Christianization of Lithuania. Cross crafting is a popular and traditional expression of historic, artistic, sociological and ethnological value. With pillar structures 1.20 to 2 metres in height, each cross is typically carved with floral and geometric motifs, and adorned with statues of Christ or Saints.

The crosses may be erected alone or in clusters, in forests and fields, near springs and crossroads. Many crosses are assembled at the Hill of Crosses of Mount Jurgaiciai, a significant historical site. There are some 200 cross-crafting masters in Lithuania. The crosses are often consecrated by blessings and prayers. Along with religious and social meanings, the crosses also have political symbolism, for example linked to Independence. Since the 1920s, the crosses are also used to commemorate national holidays.

Threats: This community-based tradition is endangered by modernization, and youth migration.

Action plan: Proposals seek to preserve and revitalize cross crafting through research and audio-visual documentation, forums for the exchange of cross-crafting knowledge, master training workshops for young people, educational programmes and promotion through the media and the internet.