Christian Symbols of the Wooden and Metal Crosses of the Aukštaitija Region of the Nineteenth – First Half of the Twentieth Century

Acta Academiae Artium Vilnensis


  • Jolanta Zabulytė



Christian symbols, wooden and metal crosses, Aukštaitija


The article discusses the yet unexplored Christian symbols found on wooden and metal (cast iron and forged) memorial crosses of the nineteenth – first half of the twentieth century of the Aukštaitija region. Most attention is given to the arrangement of the abbreviation INRI, the monogram of Christ IHS, and the motifs of a heart, candles, a sunburst monstrance, a cup, a skull with bones, and angels, their stylistics and combinations with other decorative elements. Examples from a single region have been chosen for the study in order to reveal the specific features and development of these Christian symbols used in crosses, and their uniqueness is revealed by comparing them with monuments of other regions of Lithuania.

The research revealed that the motifs of INRI, IHS and a skull with bones were used in a similar way in wooden and metal crosses throughout Lithuania, a cup is found in all regions, only the principles of its composition differ. The wooden crosses of Eastern Aukštaitija are distinguished by the frequent depiction of two candles, a sunburst monstrance, a heart, and angels. All these motifs are usually found in wooden crosses having ornate or plain altar shrines and in crosses with ornate canopies for the Crucified Christ. Hearts were used in some models built in Aukštaitija, but, like the hearts of wooden crosses, they did not affect the décor of forged crosses in terms of shape and composition, because the silhouette of a heart folded from wire at the centre is more common there. The popularity of angels in forged crosses may have been due to the frequent use of this motif in wooden crosses, and in isolated cases – in some examples of cast crosses. The motif of the cup was used only in some forged crosses of the Aukštaitija region.

Author Biography

Jolanta Zabulytė

graduated from the Vilnius Art Institute in Art History and Theory in 1989. In 2007, she defended her doctoral thesis in Art History, at the Vilnius Academy of Arts. From 1997, she has been taking part in international and national scholarly con­ ferences (39), and published two monographs on cross­crafting, 30 scholarly and 26 popular articles on cross­crafting and folk art. She gives public lectures and organizes cultural and scholarly events, and also works as a lecturer at the Kaunas Faculty of the Vilnius Academy of Arts. The fields of her research are wooden and metal cross­crafting and folk art.



How to Cite

Zabulytė, J. (2023). Christian Symbols of the Wooden and Metal Crosses of the Aukštaitija Region of the Nineteenth – First Half of the Twentieth Century: Acta Academiae Artium Vilnensis. Acta Academiae Artium Vilnensis, (110-111), 229–264.