The Grotto of Redemption

I am on my way home from Northern Michigan and decided to hit one roadside attraction. So, you are wondering, what did I find in Iowa after driving off the freeway through one hundred miles of corn fields until my cell phone stopped working?

Wrong! Here, in rural West Bend, Iowa (population 834) literally in the middle of hundreds of acres of cornfields, is one of the largest man made grottoes in the world, the Grotto of the Redemption


It’s the local priest’s lifetime devotional tribute to Mary, mother of Jesus.

Here is the entrance:

Grotto Entrance

It goes on.


And on.

Grotto stations of cross

An on.

Grotto Corner with flowers

See all those pretty colors? Every single one of them is a tiny inlaid rock, gemstone, agate, petrified tree, sandstone, stalactite,  stalagmite and/or mineral something.

Grotto Eve closer detail

Seriously. Worth millions of dollars and one of the largest and most diverse collections in the world, this crush of geological novelties into one enormous shrine is Father Dobberstein’s lifetime act of gratitude to Mother Mary. (She saved him from a near fatal bout of pneumonia in 1919.)

So, my own impression of this beautiful and horrifying religious testament? Well, I can only consider it in terms of my one time pilgrimage to this European priest’s isolated farmland parish.  The landscape is spectacular, but, after a while, the rows and rows and rows of cornfields start to take on a sinister sameness.  So, this 42 year devotional project has a much more Jack Nicholson vibe to me.  As I walked from room to room, up stairs and down, I could almost see the maniacal priest setting precious stone after precious stone into his evermore monstrous shrine.

All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.

All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.

All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.

But, if you like cool and creepy (and/or are wandering around Northern Iowa looking for something to do),  I recommend visiting little West Bend’s Grotto of Redemption. (About 70 slow miles off of IH-35.)

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