CULTURE / Religion / Krikštai

Each settlement had its own cemetery with gravestone monuments characteristic to the Curonian Spit residents only - krikštai. Historical records attested this term since the 16th century. Krikštai were widespread not only in Lithuania Minor but also in Western Samogitia by the 17th century. Later on the range of krikštai erection narrowed down to Littoral, Nemunas delta, Tilsit and Curonian Spit area.

Modifications to the form and ornaments of krikštai depended on the region. However, krikštai erection tradition had only slight changes even by the middle of the 20th century. Contrary to Catholic crosses, krikštai were built at the foot. They were made of a single timber plank, their stem had to reach the bottom of grave. It was believed this could help a soul of the deceased to comfortably claw hold and get out of the grave.

Different timber was applied for female and male krikštai. Female krikštai were made of wood type attributed to feminine grammar gender such as linden, aspen, fir, etc.,  male krikštai - to masculine grammar gender such as oak, ash, birch, etc. Coloration of carved ornaments and paint coating was different. Male grave monuments featured carved horse heads, motives of birds and plants, while female - flowers, cuckoos, and hearts. Small crosses on the top of krikštai appeared at a later time.

Krikštai were carried during funeral processions. Burial customs required urgent craftwork and therefore some of them were carved not so diligently.

Currently, the restored krikštai can be seen at Nida ethnographic cemetery. The beginning of the cemetery memorizes the establishment of the third Nida dated 1732. After the Second World War the cemetery was abandoned, and wooden krikštai vanishing. In 1975 they were preserved and restored thanks to the concern and efforts of the local artist Eduardas Jonušas. Krikštai were restored once again in 2010. The cemetery gates were restored based on the historical photos.

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