Most visitors to Lithuania visit the iconic castle at Trakai, situated on Galvė Lake. Galvė lake is part of a lake system, which, viewed from above, actually looks like an angel. Galvė, Totoriškių and Luka (Bernardinai) lakes make up the torso and legs, Skaistis and Akmena Lakes form its outspread wings, and the Hill of Angels is the head.
The Hill of Angels, though not very high, is impressive for its panoramic views of forests, Galvė Lake and Trakai Castle, as well as its collection of over 50 folk art “guardian” angels created to commemorate various Lithuanian communities and organizations and to represent fundamental human values: Life, Truth, Peace, Serenity, Compassion, Sacrifice, Love, Health, Joy, Gratitude and Hope. The first angels on the hill were erected in 2009 to commemorate the millenium of Lithuania’s first historical mention and the 600th anniversary of the basilica of the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Trakai, a project initiated by Lolita Jolanta Piličiauskaitė and Dominyka Semionovė. At the time it was meant to have ten angels in this field, one for each century – but 14 years later, there are 53 sculptures – finely crafted wooden angel sculptures, wrought sun-like crosses, and trees of life decorated with traditional national symbols. The oak angel sculptures were created by Lithuanian and foreign artists and reflect traditional wood carving and cross-crafting. Angels created from other materials appear on the Hill, as well. In 2015, the Angel of Orphans was created with a head made of granite. In 2017, the Angel of Librarians, made out of metal, also joined the collection.
This year, on August 3, the World Lithuanian Community will unveil a new sculpture on the hill to express gratitude to the Lithuanian diaspora for its dedication to the fatherland. This idea was put forth by Lithuanian folk ensemble director and music teacher Elena Valiulienė living in Oslo. Last year, during the World Lithuanian Community Congress in Vilnius, it was decided to commemorate the Community’s 65th anniversary. Award-winning folk artist and sculptor Saulius Lampickas of Alytus was chosen to create the WLC angel. He is using a four- metre high, 3.5 ton block of oak for this monument, which will depict two angels holding the tree of life between them, with an over-arching roof design popular in country folk art. The tree of life is a universal symbol, and much used in Lithuanian folk symbolism since ancient times.
The project will cost about 20,000 euros, an amount the directors of the LWC hope the diaspora will contribute by July 6. Donors of 1000 euros or more will have their names engraved in a commemorative plaque, and those contributing 100 euros or more will have their names published in the magazine “Pasaulio lietuvis”.
Legends are entwined in the history of many sites in Lithuania – and Trakai is one of them. The website trakai-visit.lt gives us Legend of the Hill of Angels: When God was creating the region of Trakai, he was assisted by the Angel of Compassion. Prolonged rain filled the imprints of God’s fingers in the ground with water forming many lakes of different shapes. The Angel of Compassion was mesmerized by the beauty of the crystal-clear waters, the abundance of fish, and the breathtakingly colourful birds diving in the waves. He was flying above the lakes chasing dragonflies, having forgotten all about his work.
The angel’s brothers became concerned and turned to God, thinking that the Angel of Compassion had lost his head because of these lakes and was neglecting his daily duties. The Creator calmed them with a wave of his hand and said: in the spot where one is able to see three places where God is worshipped, the Angel of Compassion will regain his head! With that, the earth started trembling, the heavens shook, and suddenly a hill appeared in one spot. All the surrounding lakes joined it, forming Angel’s body and wide-spread wings.
Centuries later, people climbed up the hill where three places of worship could be seen: the basilica, the Orthodox church, and the Island Castle. People really liked this hill, so they started bringing wooden angels here. As soon as the first angels appeared on the hill, the Angel of Compassion woke up and realized that the Hill of Angels was his lost head from God’s prophecy. He admired the beauty of the Hill, and as he was ready to return to God he said: “There will be more and more angels on the hill. They will protect Trakai and all of Lithuania, and Trakai will become a path to spread kindness and love!”