Date of Award
Master of Arts (MA)
This thesis examines the relationship between Catholicism and Lithuanian national identity, focusing on Kryziu kalnas (the Hill of Crosses), a Catholic pilgrimage site.
The historical link and symbiosis between religion and nation in Lithuania shape Lithuanian Catholicism and identity, as well as the discourse and experience of the Hill of Crosses. The dominant narrative about the site draws upon and adds to this connection. It is narrated as a locus for simultaneously religious and politico-nationalist dissent against foreign occupation.
The ethnographic reality at the Hill of Crosses reveals the production of religious and political meanings for present-day pilgrims at multiple levels. Behaviors at the site are expressed in an idiom and through symbolism largely dictated by the parameters set by the amalgamation of the dominant narrative and the visitors to the site. For all visitors the production of meaning takes place within the context and constraints established by the dominant narrative, the behavior of other visitors, visitors' own preconceptions, and other factors. The site itself is constantly (re)constructed and (re)produced.
Analysis suggests that the post-Soviet era has opened the way for more plurality in meaning-making and that there has been gradual but incomplete loosening of the bonds between religion and nation, but the two remain inextricably linked for most Lithuanians and inextricably linked at the Hill of Crosses.
This work contributes to an understanding of meaning-making at this pilgrimage site. It also contributes to our understanding of how the relationship between religion and nation has been molded by history. Furthermore, by examining the narrative about Lithuania's Soviet legacy, this thesis sheds light upon the post-Soviet transition. Finally, in exploring the interactions and relationships between "religion" and "nation" in changing socio-political contexts, this thesis offers a corrective to our tendency to think of the two as separate or separable.
Olson, Katherine L., "On the Hill of Crosses: Catholicism and Lithuanian National Identity" (2009). Open Access Dissertations and Theses. Paper 4442.
McMaster University Library