West Bend, Iowa doesn’t just lend its name to cornfields and soya beans. It also lays claim to the world’s largest grotto. This grotto is literally a miracle in stone. Worshippers and devotees come from near and far to evoke a spiritual experience at The Grotto of the Redemption. It represents the life work of Father Paul Dobberstein (1872 – 1954), a Catholic priest.
As the largest grotto in the world, the sacred Grotto of the Redemption is comprised of nine separate grottos. Each depicts a scene in the life of Jesus of Nazareth. What makes this grotto particularly unique is how it was constructed.
For over a decade, Father Dobberstein collected rocks and precious stones from around the world. He began building the grotto in 1912. Father Dobberstein used these rocks to form the Grotto’s walls and ceilings. He intricately set rocks and semi-precious stones into the walls to create a truly one-of-a-kind miracle which attracts visitors daily.
Large chunks of rose quartz.
I lost count of the different varieties of rock and stone. One literally gets lost in the swirling colors of the grotto, from amethyst and rose quartz, to jade, agate, lapis lazuli, malachite, sodalite, calcite and a variety of other semi-precious rocks.
Father Dobberstein built his miracle in stone over a period of forty-two years. During those years, Father Dobberstein worked closely with Matt Szerensce, a parishioner, and Father Louis Greving, the next Catholic priest in West Bend. They continued his work after Father Dobberstein’s death in 1954.
The Grotto of Redemtion also houses a Grotto Museum and Rock Studio, which were constructed by Father Greving in the late sixties and throughout the seventies. The walls of the Museum are covered in polished agates from all over the world. There are three different kinds of rock collections. As word spread of this miracle in stone, rock donations were sent from around the world. Visitors can view rocks and semi-precious stones from as far away as South Africa, Australia and Russia. I was even able to locate rock specimens from Ottawa, Canada and North Bay, Canada.
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