The Grotto was the life's work of Fr. Paul Dobberstein who gathered materials for 10 years, then, beginning in 1912, hand-built his masterpiece for 42 years.
There are nine separate grottos, each portraying a scene in the life of Christ. This was Fr. Dobberstein's first.
The materials used include petrified wood, malachite, jasper, quartz, agates, and more. This stalagmite came from Carlsbad Caverns before it was a national park.
He was also ahead of his time with recycling. When he wanted to create a stream, he decided coke bottles were the right color. So he collected them from all the townspeople and melted them down.
He also combined melted glass and crayons to create these interesting 'rocks', surrounding some of the hundreds of agates in the Grotto.
In addition to the nine grottos, the Stations of the Cross are beautifully depicted. The first 12 are murals, which Fr. Dobberstein ordered from Italy.
Which are displayed in these rock pavilions.
The Father did have some help with his dream. Matt Szerensce, a parishioner, worked with Father Dobberstein and Father Louis Greving, his successor, furthered his work after his death. At the time of his death, the Grotto was about 80% finished.
Fr. Paul Dobberstein
The complexity of the Grotto of the Redemption is mind-boggling.
The next morning I walked over from the campground to get a picture of the adjacent church.
It's certainly an impressive building for a town of 800 people.
Inside the church, Fr. Dobberstein built the Christmas Chapel in 1927.
Considered to be Father's finest work, it contains mineral specimens thought to be too delicate to be used in the outdoor grottos. It contains an amethyst that weighs 300 pounds.
And here's one more picture of the Grotto from the other side.
Of course pictures can't do it justice. If you are ever anywhere near West Bend, Iowa, treat yourself to a visit to Grotto of the Redemption and be amazed.