Žemaičių Kalvarija (Samogitian Calvary) Hill Fort, also known as St. Jonas (John’s) Hill

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Žemaičių kalvarija, Plungė district
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The town of Žemaičių Kalvarija, formerly known as Gardai, has a preserved street network dating from the 9th to the 13th century and is full of archaeological, sacral and cultural heritage and a number of natural wonders. Legend has it that a Baltic pagan priest ordered everyone passing through to bring a little bit of soil from different places and pour it here. It’s this man-made hill fort that the old Gardai Castle once stood on in present-day Žemaičių Kalvarija. The castle is mentioned in the a paper dating back to April 5, 1253, written by the bishop of the Livonian Order and Courland, Heinrichas (Heinrich) on subject of the division of the southern Curonian lands. Later it was the location of the first chapel of the Gardai parish, St. John’s Chapel.

The hill fort, which dates from between the 1st millennium and 13th century, is established on the right bank of Varduva river at the confluence with the Pagardenis river. Its platform is quadrangular, oblong along a north-south axis, 40 × 35 metres in length and with a 2.5 metre lower east side. On the southern edge of the platform is a 35 metre long, 2 metre high and 28 metre wide mound, behind which there used to be a ditch that’s now buried under the ground. The slopes are steep, rising to 12 metres in height. The hill fort is uncultivated and there are a few trees on the western slope.

The hill fort was damaged between 1637 and 1639 when bishop Jurgis Tiškevičius ordered the installation of calvaries (sanctuaries) in it, which is how the town got the name of Žemaičių Kalvarija. At the northern end of the platform is the stone chapel Viešpats Jėzus suimamas (Lord Jesus is Being Arrested). On the southern mound is the wooden chapel Jėzus meldžiasi Alyvų sode (Jesus is Praying at the Garden of Syringas) and the stone sculpture of Christ’s arrest.

During the 20th century, exploratory archaeological research at the hill fort was carried out by the hill fort explorer Liudvikas Kšivickis (Ludwik Krzywicki), and in 1964 the hill fort was investigated by the Lithuanian Institute of History. In 2004, an area of 4 square metres near the chapel was investigated. A fragment of thrown pottery with horizontal lines was discovered, and a few more individual finds have been found since that time.

To the northeast of the hill fort on the other side of Varduva in an area of 0.5 hectares is a base settlement in which pieces of pottery were found. Some 250 metres to the north is a burial ground dating from the 9th to the 13th century that was dug in 2002.

Near the hill fort, that’s sometimes called St. Jonas Hill, is a wayside shrine to commemorate the 600th anniversary of the baptism of the Samogitians. It was carved by the Samogitian master of sculptures, the cross-maker Antanas Vaškys. The monument depicts a bishop baptising a Samogitian man standing in the Varduva stream. It also shows St. John the Baptist baptising Jesus, and the rulers of Lithuania Vytautas and Jogaila (Jagiełło).

Žemaičių Kalvarija (Samogitian Calvary) Hill Fort, also known as St. Jonas (John’s) Hill

Žemaičių kalvarija, Plungė district

The town of Žemaičių Kalvarija, formerly known as Gardai, has a preserved street network dating from the 9th to the 13th century and is full of archaeological, sacral and cultural heritage and a number of natural wonders. Legend has it that a Baltic pagan priest ordered everyone passing through to bring a little bit of soil from different places and pour it here. It’s this man-made hill fort that the old Gardai Castle once stood on in present-day Žemaičių Kalvarija. The castle is mentioned in the a paper dating back to April 5, 1253, written by the bishop of the Livonian Order and Courland, Heinrichas (Heinrich) on subject of the division of the southern Curonian lands. Later it was the location of the first chapel of the Gardai parish, St. John’s Chapel.

The hill fort, which dates from between the 1st millennium and 13th century, is established on the right bank of Varduva river at the confluence with the Pagardenis river. Its platform is quadrangular, oblong along a north-south axis, 40 × 35 metres in length and with a 2.5 metre lower east side. On the southern edge of the platform is a 35 metre long, 2 metre high and 28 metre wide mound, behind which there used to be a ditch that’s now buried under the ground. The slopes are steep, rising to 12 metres in height. The hill fort is uncultivated and there are a few trees on the western slope.

The hill fort was damaged between 1637 and 1639 when bishop Jurgis Tiškevičius ordered the installation of calvaries (sanctuaries) in it, which is how the town got the name of Žemaičių Kalvarija. At the northern end of the platform is the stone chapel Viešpats Jėzus suimamas (Lord Jesus is Being Arrested). On the southern mound is the wooden chapel Jėzus meldžiasi Alyvų sode (Jesus is Praying at the Garden of Syringas) and the stone sculpture of Christ’s arrest.

During the 20th century, exploratory archaeological research at the hill fort was carried out by the hill fort explorer Liudvikas Kšivickis (Ludwik Krzywicki), and in 1964 the hill fort was investigated by the Lithuanian Institute of History. In 2004, an area of 4 square metres near the chapel was investigated. A fragment of thrown pottery with horizontal lines was discovered, and a few more individual finds have been found since that time.

To the northeast of the hill fort on the other side of Varduva in an area of 0.5 hectares is a base settlement in which pieces of pottery were found. Some 250 metres to the north is a burial ground dating from the 9th to the 13th century that was dug in 2002.

Near the hill fort, that’s sometimes called St. Jonas Hill, is a wayside shrine to commemorate the 600th anniversary of the baptism of the Samogitians. It was carved by the Samogitian master of sculptures, the cross-maker Antanas Vaškys. The monument depicts a bishop baptising a Samogitian man standing in the Varduva stream. It also shows St. John the Baptist baptising Jesus, and the rulers of Lithuania Vytautas and Jogaila (Jagiełło).

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