Grotto of the Redemption....
Sep 24, 2013
|I'm several days behind in posting once again but hope to catch up within the next couple of days. In the meantime, here is a brief synopsis of our last few days!
Sunday Larry, Fred, Chris & I visited the Grotto of the Redemption, a religious monument located in West Bend, Iowa. Comprised of nine grottos depicting scenes in the life of Jesus of Nazareth, the Grotto contains a large collection of minerals and petrification's and is believed to be the largest grotto in the world. The Grotto is frequently considered the "Eighth Wonder of the World" (I think there are a couple of Eighth Wonder's of the World!) and The Iowan magazine has described the Grotto as a "Miracle in Stone".
It is also "considered to be the world's most complete man-made collection of minerals, fossils, shells, and petrification's in one place." It represents a vast collection of petrified wood, stalactite & stalagmite, malachite, jasper, quartz crystals and many more. The total value of all the rocks and minerals which make up the Grotto is over $4,308,000 and over 100,000 people visit the Grotto each year.
The Grotto is the inspiration and life work of Fr. Paul Dobberstein (1872-1954), a Catholic priest. For a decade, he gathered rocks and precious stones from around the world then began construction in 1912. For the next 42 years, Fr. Dobberstein created hundreds of intricate rock settings that form the Grotto’s walls and ceilings.
Father Dobberstein was a German immigrant ordained in 1897. He became critically ill with pneumonia and promised to build a shrine to the Virgin Mary if she interceded for him. Mary apparently liked the idea, Dobberstein recovered and became a priest, and in 1898 he was sent from Germany to the tiny town of West Bend, Iowa -- one of the worst places in the world to build a shrine, since West Bend has no precious stones. Father Dobberstein was not deterred. For 14 years he stockpiled building material, mostly rocks that the local farmers pulled from their fields. Then he got to work. Foundations were dug, concrete was poured, rocks were set into slabs that were then bolted into place. When Father Dobberstein needed help, he would walk to a local pool hall and hire laborers for cash and beer. The mineral-minded Father weighed only 135 pounds, and his hands would crack and bleed into the cement at the end of a hard day's work. "There isn't any redemption," he would tell concerned parishioners, "without a little blood."
Catholicism appreciates stagecraft, and Father Dobberstein knew that the grander his grotto, the more people would visit and be won to the faith. So he worked every imaginable colorful mineral and crystal into his design, washing the snazziest stones in his bathtub before carefully cementing them in place. He traveled hundreds of miles to rock havens such as Hot Springs, Arkansas, and the Black Hills of South Dakota to collect materials. He paid people to crawl into Carlsbad Caverns and break off formations. Glued into the grotto walls are semi-precious gems, logs of petrified wood, even a rock from the South Pole. Tons of stone were hauled to Iowa in railroad box cars, year after year, for a project that had no blueprint.
The result, visitors are dwarfed by encrusted towers, cracked-coral tapestries, and big, irregular spires of petrified wood. Narrow walkways squeeze under arches, up staircases, around pediments, past alcoves. The entire mass tops out at 40 feet, surmounted by an empty cross with a marble Jesus slumped at its base. Each shiny agate and chunk of pink quartz doubtless reaffirmed Father Dobberstein's devotion to Mary, and her mysterious grotto plan.
Father Dobberstein used the knowledge and skills gained during construction of his first grotto honoring Our Lady of Lourdes, while training at St. Francis Seminary in St. Francis, Wisconsin. His method was to set fancy rocks and gems into concrete. In 1946, Father Louis Greving began helping Dobberstein with the construction. The Grotto covered an area the size of a city block when Dobberstein died in 1954. Father Greving himself passed away in 2002, and the grotto is now under the stewardship of Deacon Gerald Streit since 1994.
Today, many of the rocks that once gleamed in the bathtub have dulled a bit after decades in the weather. But the grounds are spotless, and the grotto itself is in excellent repair. No cracks, no loose rocks or shells, and there must be millions of rocks & shells, a testament to Father Dobberstein's diligent construction. Bottom line, if you get in the area, definitely stop at this magical place. Even though we first visited the Grotto in 2010 we enjoyed visiting it again. We noticed many things we hadn't seen the first time around.
Monday we hung out at home & rested all day. We got a bit of paperwork done, watched TV, read and cooked. And that's about it. We were still the only camper in our loop so it was very quiet and peaceful. Nice!
Tuesday morning we pulled out and traveled 71 south through Iowa until we reached I-80. We then headed east toward Des Moines. Tuesday afternoon we exited on #86 and traveled a couple of miles to check out 'The Freedom Rock'. But more on that tomorrow. After seeing the rock we continued on to our final destination, Winterset. We have had a full two days here in Winterset, but more on that later. The weather is great and we are having a wonderful time. Tomorrow morning, Thursday, we'll pull out, destination Illinois. Still looking for any 'touristy' suggestions. If you have one, please drop us a line ASAP! Otherwise, we won't be in Illinois very long before moving on to Indiana. Thanks for stopping by!
P.S. This post is very photo intensive. Sorry about that but it is hard to share the grotto with fewer pics. I hope you enjoy seeing them, just in case you don't happen to make it to West Bend, Iowa!