Monday, April 22, 2013

Lithuanian Crosses

Lithuanian black angel and joyful cross

In Lithuania the predominant religion is Christian Catholicism. But instead of the familiar Christian cross, the Lithuanians prefer far more intricate, beautiful and joyful versions, many of which seem to incorporate pagan symbols such as the rays of the sun, plants and animals - the harmless grass snake, for example.

Here's what Wikipedia has to say about the marvellous Lithuanian Crosses:

Kryždirbystė or Lithuanian cross crafting is a traditional Lithuanian art of crafting crosses. The making of altars and crosses is an important part of Lithuanian culture. Lithuanian traditional crosses are part of the people's Roman Catholic religion and are also linked to ancient pre-Christian culture dating back much longer, having links to memorial poles signifying the pagan world tree. Approximately since Lithuania became a part of the Russian Empire in the 19th century, these crosses have become a symbol of the Lithuanian people.
In addition to its formal use in churches, the cross in Lithuania long ago became a frequent subject of folk art. Lietuviškas kryžius is a stylized folk art cross put up at crossroads, in cemeteries, near houses, and as votive offerings in churches. The crosses combine elements of architecture, sculpture, blacksmith art, and painting. They often feature organic flourishes, motifs of the sun, birds, and represent the World Tree. To plead for grace or to express gratitude, the crosses are built as memorials to the dead or as the signs of spiritual protection at certain places. The art of Lithuanian cross crafting was acknowledged as one of the Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity in 2001 by UNESCO.

A distinctive two-barred cross - the Vytis Cross - appears on the shield held by the knight in Lithuania's coat of arms. Adopted by Grand Duke Jogaila as his personal insignia, it is usually associated with the Jogaila dynasty. This cross is displayed on Lithuanian aircraft. 

The Lithuanian Coat of Arms

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