Monday, August 24, 2015

Grotto of the Redemption

The morning light at Ledges State Park was gray.  Forecast was more rain on the way.  We were looking forward to visiting the “ledges” but it was not to be.  The gate was closed to the area—high water.  Another time for the first state park in Iowa. 

I had at least three other possible trail rides circled on our map, but riding in the rain was not our plan.  So, it was north to Westbend,  which is only about 50 miles south of the Iowa-Minnesota line and about that same distance from where we were.  Destination, Grotto of the Redemption.

The literature says you must, “Experience the Grotto.”  I would say that is correct.  It is hard to describe. 

Father Paul Dobberstein (1872-1954) was extremely interested in rocks.  He traveled all over the United States and World gathering all kinds and sizes of ornamental rocks and gem stones.  He would bring them back to his parish in the small Iowa town of Westbend and set them in concrete.  Following his death, others continued in carrying out Father Dobberstein’s plans. It is the largest man-made grotto in the world.  It is often called the eighth wonder of the world and is valued at over four million dollars.

It is a “composite of nine separate grottos, each portraying a scene in the life of Christ.” For me, though, the scenes were meaningful, but the beautiful stones were breathtaking.    The one grotto portraying Jesus as a baby is made entirely out of petrified wood.  The fact that it was slightly raining only did more to make the rocks sparkle and shine.  The church has a Christmas scene inside using materials that were too precious for the outdoor display including a Brazilian amethyst that weighs over 300 lbs.

I did have to tell myself that the Father gathered his beautiful material at a different time.  He probably would find many of the sites he visited protected now.  Still, being able to visit one place with the variety of stones is awesome.  With the rain, the tour guide was not on site that day.  We visited with someone who had been there before and they said the tour guides are informed about the names of the stones and even tell stories about the gathering trips.  We were sorry to have missed this opportunity.

I will add that, because of the rain, I did not use my good camera.  Consequently I am disappointed in the quality of the pictures.  But, you will get the idea.  Click here or on the picture to go to Smug Mug and then on the upper right hand area for the “slideshow.”

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