The Grotto – another bucket list item inspired by Courtney Haag. It’s located in West Bend, Iowa, which is about an hour drive from Courtney’s (my roommate) hometown, Ledyard, Iowa. After our visit to Ledyard this past weekend we stopped at The Grotto on the way back to Des Moines.
If you don’t know what a grotto is, keep reading. Don’t worry, I got your back. I’d never heard of a grotto, so assumed it was just the name of the place. Courtney described it as a really pretty rock sculpture thing. I was surprised when she offered to drive an hour out of the way just for the bucket list. When we got there I instantly understood.
Even after seeing it I have trouble explaining it, so I’m thankful for pictures. But first, I did look up the definition in my computer’s dictionary and here’s what I was given: “a small picturesque cave, an artificial one in a park or garden.”
I also found this clearly descriptive example: “Seven pounds of cocaine was found stashed in a remote grotto.” Well, from what I saw this wasn’t that type of grotto.
It’s actually a series of 9 grottos, each depicting an important scene from the Bible. The combination of caves and colomns encircle a courtyard. Together they create the largest Grotto in the world. Yet another claim to fame for Iowa!
Father Paul Dobberstein of Germany started the construction in 1912. He used thousands of rocks and precious stones he had collected for years from around the world. For 42 years he devoted his life to building and designing these intricate structures. After his death Father Greving and Matt Szerensce continued his work until it was completed. I find it incredible that this massive piece of art was erected by 3 men.
Not only does it showcase beautiful, colorful rocks and agates, but also rocks you’ve never seen before. Turquoise, shells with swirls of pastels, and rose rocks. Things you’d never find in Iowa, until now. Yes, Iowa will surprise you from time to time.
We stopped by the Museum and Rock studio to see displays of some of the rocks used. They come from nearby places like the Black Hills of South Dakota, as well as farther ones like Mexico, Oklahoma, and Italy. I’ve loved looking at rocks since I was little. It’s amazing how the history of the earth is found molded in these naturally created stones that awe and inspire even the most creative of imaginations. But this impressive display doesn’t end when you walk out the door. The outside of the building is covered with polished agates from all over the world. It took 16 years just to cut and polish these stones.
I won’t even tell you to check this place out (because I’m sure I’ve convinced you with my powers of description and persuasion). Just look at these pictures. I’m sure they’ll do the trick, though a camera can’t do this masterpiece justice.