on August 22, 2009
Often called the "Eighth Wonder of the World" and a "Miracle in Stone", the Grotto of the Redemption spans a full city block in West Bend, Iowa. It is the largest religiously inspired grotto in the world. The Grotto is actually a composite of nine separate Grottos; each portrays a scene spanning the life of Jesus from His birth to His resurrection. The highest point of the Grotto rises forty feet. This mountain commemorates the 13th Station of the Cross – Jesus is taken down from the cross. His limp body lays cradled in Mary’s arms in a sculpture patterned after Michelangelo’s famous Pieta. This is just one of the many Italian Mosaic and Carrara marble statues that adorn sacred place.More than its size, more than its lifelike statues of the Holy Family and other Biblical figures like Adam & Eve, Moses, and heavenly angels, the minerals and stones used to construct the Grotto make it a geological wonder. One man – Father Paul Dobberstein (1872 – 1954) started construction of the Grotto in 1912 to fulfill a promise he made to God. For 42 years, Father Dobberstein labored setting the rocks and gems into concrete. According to Rhonda Miller, Director of the Grotto, Father used materials considered to be "junk" at a time. Farmers and landowners were happy to have Father haul the stuff away. That "junk" represents a vast collection of minerals and stones – petrified wood, stalactite and stalagmite, malachite, jasper, quartz crystals, sea shells, and other gems invaluable today. An entry on Wikepedia sets the value of the Grotto gems at $4.3 million. In reaction to that number, Rhonda commented, "Bill Gates couldn’t build it. We can’t rebuild it. The materials aren’t available. The Grotto is priceless." The Grotto is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Its geological value is world renown for rock hounds and artists. Architects study its construction. The non-religious visitors find it a "peaceful place." The Faithful visitors move closer to Christ after they experience the Grotto. Rhonda Miller says she annual visitation to range between 25,000 – 30,000 people. Guided tours are available May through October, and anytime by appointment.
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