As our year continues to unfold, Abby, Eyra and I (Clark) definitely found a gem within the state of Iowa and in the most unexpected place. West Bend Iowa that is, where the population is probably no greater than 1000. Within West Bend lies one of the most beautiful man made pieces of art, a shrine that was made with architectural uniqueness and if I may add a place of peace for prayers to be heard and answered. Grotto of the Redemption is a geologist candy store and a place waiting for you to rediscover.
The mastermind behind one of the most precious pieces of architecture at the time in the Midwest was Father Paul M. Dobberstein. Father Dobbertein had an idea of what he wanted to build but the only struggle he encountered in his path to build the shrine/grotto was time. Father Dobberstein had a few trusted helpers, one was Father Dobberstein’s own brother Bernard and yet another man of the cloth by the name of Father Louis Greving. Father Greving would later go on to continue the work of Father Dobberstein after his death. What makes Grotto of the Redemption so unique? As a traveler, I’ve had the opportunity to visit many churches, cathedrals, temples and synagogues, nationally and internationally, from the cathedral of La Sagrada Familia in Barcelona, to Notre Dame in Paris to the Cathedral of the Archangel Michael in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico and believe me, the Grotto of the Redemption is certainly among the greatest.
Each column, window, statue, cave, dome and station is made of unique stones from all over the world. How was this accomplished by one man? I am yet to understand that or perhaps patience in this instance has been the answer all along. Father Dobberstein could have been anything he wanted in the world, from an architect to an engineer or even a well-respected geologist, yet he chose to follow the word of God and accomplished building this amazing grotto that even until now has been full of surprises.
The stones literally come from all over the world and some places that many of you may know such as West Africa, Mexico, Brazil and my personal favorite Carlsbad Caverns in New Mexico. Yes, Carlsbad Caverns is a National Park in the United States but before we judge Father Dobberstein for looting a National Park, the huge stalactite that currently lies in the Grotto of the Redemption was actually given to Father Dobberstein as a gift from Mr. Jim White who was the man responsible of discovering the caves in New Mexico. Don’t worry, the caves were not a National Park then.
The Grotto consists of hundreds of thousands of unique minerals and precious stones. I honestly cannot understand how this wonderful place hasn’t been looted and I am glad because it contains, quartz, opal, granite, hematite, dyerite, many different types of agate, pearls, geodes, stalactites and stalagmites, petrified wood, azurite, jasper, topaz and mud balls, if you don’t know what mud balls are, these balls are created by glaciers that melt and as the glaciers are melting a perfect ball is created within the glacier that forms a perfect circular ball. Pretty cool huh? If Grotto of the Redemption hasn’t been named a national monument, how about now? This place is amazing and my jaw literally dropped. The detail on every corner and the amount of work that it took to accomplish this is beyond my understanding. Father Dobberstein’s vision was to describe the love of God with this grotto and I must say. HE NAILED IT!
As I was walking into some of the caves you could see stalactites growing and hanging firmly from the cave’s ceiling. It is said that Father Dobberstein purposely built his own stalactites by adding deposits of magnesium and calcium in the ceilings and by creating small vents in the ceilings for water to get in. There are hundreds of sea shells all along the grotto and you can most certainly smell as if you were near the ocean. The smell of sea salt in the air.
The grotto has unique sculptures and some are so fine in design that even the veins can be seen on such statue. A replica of Michelangelo’s Pieta is also on display and its very beautiful, unfortunately due to the cold and snowy weather that section of the grotto was closed but the Pieta can still be visible from different angles of the grotto.
The gift shop was only a few steps away from the grotto and the grotto’s staff members were really friendly and helpful in every way. It blows my mind that every place we have gone within the state of Iowa, every host, every park ranger, every volunteer, every individual, they all have been super nice, no wonder they call Iowa; Iowa nice.
Overall this place was incredible, I can’t believe we waited this long to come and visit. We will certainly return during the Spring or Summer when we can see the grotto from a different perspective and see more places within that were currently closed. Perhaps the next time we come, we can come with more company. Andy and Brenda, this would be a great idea. What adventure will come next?
To be continued…