A review of cross-making traditions in Gruzdžiai Valsčius: the end of the 19th –the beginning of the 20th century

Skaidrė Urbonienė

The comprehensive survey of the cross-making tradition in Gruzdžiai district is done in the article. Various aspects of cross-making are discussed: small-scale architecture according to the types of monuments, the purposes of cross erecting, the rituals near them, and creative works of masters, which are called god-makers. The exhaustive information has to be a valuable source for the continuation of the tradition in the modern society of the present day.

Documented data of the tradition goes to the middle of the 19th century. The feature of the district’s cross-making was the variety of the types of monuments. All types of monuments, found in Lithuania, were built here: crosses, roofed poles, poles with miniature shrines on the top, chapels, miniature shrines were put on trees as well. Another characteristic feature of tradition in this district is the interlacement of the features of two main regions of Lithuania (Aukštaitija and Žemaitija). Here like in the Žemaitija, the main type of monuments was a pole with a miniature shrine on the top, but like in the North Aukštaitija and Middle Lithuania there are crosses of one type: with modest decorations of floral motives on the cross-pieces and small rays in the gaps of cross-pieces.

The god-makers of the district made saints’ statuettes of various themes. They sold them in the towns of the district and went to the distant towns of Aukštaitija and Žemaitija as well. They saw the works of masters of Žemaitija, but they maintained the features of Aukštaitija folk sculpture traditions in their works.

The place of monument erection and rites near them are the same like in the whole Lithuania. Monuments were built in the farmsteads, near roads, in the cemeteries. The purposes of the erecting were various, but mostly connected with protection and memory. The main ritual in which the crosses were involved was the celebration of the Day of Crosses.