The Largest Man-made Grotto in the World
On Day #17 of our 30-day, 9376 mile, road trip to see more of America we visited the Grotto of the Redemption in West Bend, Iowa.
The Grotto of the Redemption is religious shrine built over a 42-year period by Father Paul Dobberstein, a Roman Catholic priest who served as the Pastor for Saints Peter and Paul Church, that includes rocks, semi-precious stones, and minerals from all over the world. The entire structure is so large that it covers approximately one city block.
The Grotto was built because as a young seminarian Father Dobberstein became critically ill with pneumonia. As his illness progressed he prayed to the Blessed Virgin Mary and promised to build a shrine in her honor if he lived. Fortunately his health improved and, after his ordination as a Priest, Father Dobberstein was assigned to West Bend as the church Pastor in 1898. Once in Iowa Father Dobberstein spent a decade stockpiling rocks and precious stones for the shrine that he planned to build. The actual work of planning and building the grotto began in 1912 – with a design telling the story of man’s fall and his redemption by Christ. After Father Dobberstein passed away in 1954 his life's work on the grotto was continued by his long-time assistant, Matt Szerensce, until he retired in 1959, and for 50 years Father Louis Greving, Father Dobberstein's colleague and replacement, continued to build and care for the Grotto until 1996.
The semi-precious stones embedded in the grotto walls are amazing: petrified wood, malachite, azurite, agates, geodes, jasper, quartz, topaz, calcite, and even stalagmites taken from Carlsbad Canyons before it became a National Park.
In addition to the actual stone grotto there are numerous statues, most made out of white Carrara Italian marble, depicting St. Michael crushing the devil, Adam and Eve being driven out Eden, the Holy Family in the stable in Bethlehem, Jesus preaching the Sermon on the Mount, Judas sneaking out of the Garden of Gethsemane, and other religious figures.
As you can see from the photos below – the Grotto of the Redemption is a little overwhelming and the work to build it by hand is almost unfathomable (click on any photo to start the slideshow):
If you want to learn more about the Grotto of the Redemption here are a couple of links to check out:
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