People devotions at the Gelvonai Stone with St. Mary’s footmark and Liukonys Cross

Jolanta Stupelytë

The article deals with people devotions investigated little in Lithuania. The study purpose was–on the ground of former sources and expedition inquiry data–to reveal and compare different people devotions praxis performed up to the present time at the Gelvonai Stone with a footmark and the Liukonys Cross. 

Two holy sites are described, different stories still living in folk traditions nowadays are compared and the type of people devotions is revealed. 

These two holy sites–the Liukonys Cross and the stone with St. Mary’s footmark situated apart by a distance of 8 km–are different but, at the same time, resemble each other. It is quite possible that both sites were used by ancient Lithuanians for their religious ceremonies. The stories show the fixed changes of religions and the ideas of Christianity’s establishment and supporting. The emphasis on the Blessed Sacrament and St. Mary’s graces, which are very important for Catholics, contrary to the Protestants, favoured the establishment of the Catholicism.

The types of people devotions at the Gelvonai Stone with St. Mary’s footmark can be distinguished as follows below. During the main feasts, especially the St. Mary’s Birthday on September 8, a so-called Gelvoninë Feast, people come here with intention to ask St. Mary for care or health to themselves or their families. They go on their knees around the chapel (often three times), where the stone with the footmark is set in its wall, they say grace or rosary, kiss the stone (both inside and outside the chapel), wash their tender places with water from a small pit in the stone, and offer money up. People used to make vows and hang votive offerings at the altar to thank for health taken.

People coming to the Liukonys Cross do the following devotions. Passing by the cross they stop for a short time to pay a tribute to the cross, say prayers, some of them worship the Blessed Sacrament, and leave small donations. In the case of trouble or disease, people come to this site to say prayers, wash tender places with water from a small pit, especially hoping to heal their eyes. Many people come to the Liukonys Cross on the Ascension Day, when all village dwellers go with a procession, sing psalms, recite litanies, rosary and say prayers.

The stones with a small pit, both in Liukonys and Gelvonai, induced similar stories and similar devotions. Water that is accumulated in a pit is thought to be sacred. It is used to wash eyes, hoping to heal them; moreover, coins are also offered. When the story about the Liukonys Stone is told, it is stressed that water never disappears from its pit. In both cases, people tell about a lady who washed her doggy in it, and water lost its healing force. Nevertheless, the stories about miraculous healings are still being told up to now.