The Grotto of the Redemption

Trip Start Jun 29, 2010
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Trip End Oct 24, 2010


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Flag of United States  , Iowa
Monday, October 18, 2010


I left Anamosa and headed north west to West Bend.  I had seen something on the web about a Grotto and 4 hours later I arrived at The Grotto of the Redemption. 

The Grotto is frequently considered the "Eighth Wonder of the World" and I can see why.  The closest thing to it I've ever seen was a grotto made of shells - I think I was in Europe with my parents and grandparents.  Anyone remember where it was?   

The shells were amazing, this was is unbelievable!  It's made of minerals, precious and semi-precious stones, petrified wood, shells, malachite, azurite, agates, geodes, jasper, quartz, topaz, calcite, stalactites and stalagmites. The largest collection of precious stones and gems found anywhere in one location.  The total value of all the rocks and minerals which make up the Grotto is over $4,308,000

The story begins back in the late 1800's when a young German seminarian, Father Dobberstein became critically ill with pneumonia. As he fought for his life he prayed to the Blessed Virgin Mary (the Mother of God) to intercede for him for the grace of health. He promised to build a shrine in her honor if he lived.

The illness passed, the student completed his studies and after his ordination he came to West Bend as Pastor in 1898. For over a decade he was stockpiling rocks and precious stones. The actual work of giving permanence to his promise began to take shape in 1912 when he began building the grotto to the Blesses Virgin Mary.  When this was completed, Father Dobberstein kept building and today there are 9 separate grottos, each portraying a scene in the life of Christ. 

Father Dobberstein did not have any kind of blueprint. He had a mental picture of these various Grottos and he placed the rocks one by one into place to correspond with that mental picture.  In 1946, Father Greving and Matt Szerensce joined Father Dobberstein working on the Grotto.  Father Dobberstein passed away in 1954.  For 50 years, til 1996 and his retirement, Father Louis Greving continued to build and care for the Grotto

The cafe was closed at this time of year but there is also a museum and gift shop that were both open.  I went on a tour of the grotto and our guide was great, you can tell she loves her job.  I've already forgotten most of what she told me, names of the stones & minerals etc.   The grotto is free but I gave a donation for doing the tour but there are no fences or gates.  You can go anytime and wander through it.  They've only had one instance of vandalism, being a small town - population 800.

There was a campground next to the grotto but it was closed being mid October.  Luckily there was a hotel at the end of the block and got a room.   Looking out the window of my room, I was reminded that I was in farm country - miles and miles of farm land...all covered in manure.



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