Cross Crafting

In 2001 UNESCO declared the list of first 19 immaterial and oral heritage objects. Lithuanian cross crafting (kryždirbystė lit.) and symbolism of crosses was also included into this list. There is nothing to be surprised about as traditional Lithuanian crosses – it is unique masterpieces of combination of architecture, blacksmith,  sculpture and painting. Crosses with iron tops, ornamentation, suns, wooden sculptures of various subjects are very important treasures of Lithuanian folk heritage.

Cross crafting in Lithuania is closely related with some traditions, customs and purposes: crosses are built for dead or as a mystic signs of spiritual preservation in some special places in order to ask for favour or to thank for something. Tradition of cross crafting is so strong that crosses were built even during Soviet ruling despite pretty tough pressing of Russian government. That was the reason why crosses became symbols of Lithuanian nationalism not only of religious and customs. The most famous Lithuanian cross crafter was Vincas Svirskis (1835-1916) whose crosses are now kept in national museums.

Usually crosses are carved from oak wood. The technique is pretty intricate. Crosses often include iron elements. The stylized Lithuanian crosses are put up usually along roadsides, in the hose or church yards. Crosses some even of 5 meters height, often include elements of nature, birds, sun,  geometric ornaments, the idea of the tree of life which associates with the pagan world tree.  Nowadays cross crafting is a still alive craft, which is usually taught lips to lips among waiters. This art was never taught in schools or art academies, all the monuments are created by self-educated craftsmen. Most of the artists create crosses just for their own pleasure or while implementing some orders and only a few subsist from this craft. Nowadays it is also noticed that aside the old crosses new ones rise where the old traditions and folk elements are represented in different, newly interpreted way.

As soon as cross crafting was included into list of UNESCO immaterial heritage objects, various public and national organizations became more active in preservation and stimulating this art branch. Under these circumstances cross crafting got more abilities to flourish and develop in the future. If you want to see the real blessed and monumental place where crosses of various styles and materials stand, come to district of Šiauliai, where there is the world famous pilgrimage place called the Hill of Crosses.