“Often referred to as the eight wonder of the world…” declared the website.
I laughed as I read it, sure that it was hyperbole written to bring tourists in. The rural towns of Iowa is probably the last place that one would think of anything wondrous being. The entire state is covered in flat farmland and the towns mostly mirror the excitement that farmland brings. Or the lack of excitement one could more accurately say. Even though I had found a few diamonds throughout the state, I had a hard time envisioning anything grandiose enough to earn the above title. Every once in a while though, the hyperbole turns out to have a hint of truth in it.
The origins of the grotto lie in the tale of Father Paul Dobberstein, who was the pastor of West Bend. As a student earlier in his life, he became critically ill with pneumonia. As he fought for his life he prayed to the Blessed Virgin Mary to provide him with the strength to get better. He promised to build a shrine in her honor of he lived. The illness passed, he completed his studies and after his ordination, and in 1898 was assigned to West Bend. Little did anyone know that the stones he had been stockpiling for over a decade would now come to use in the shrine he planned on now making in Mary’s honor. In 1912, he started work on the grotto, designing it for the purpose of telling in silent stone made spiritually eloquent, the story of man’s fall and his redemption by Christ, the savior of the world.
I pulled into the parking lot across a pond from the grotto and the first thing that crossed my mind was how humble it made me feel. Even from the distance, I could tell that thousands of hours of dedication had gone into creating this behemoth of a tribute. I exited my car, and walked around the pond, only to be mesmerized more and more, the closer the grotto became. Millions of stones and crystals came together to form multiple rooms, each dedicated to a different aspect of Jesus Christ. Beautiful stations of the cross lined a hall, each constructed out of stone work that would put the best masons to shame. Little pieces of carved tile came together to tell a familiar story. One of both sadness and triumph; death and reincarnation.
I headed through an archway, up a flight of handmade stairs, to an opening that broke off into three chambers. Each one meticulously detailed with statues both big and small. Everywhere I looked, art formed beauty and beauty translated into awe. At that moment, I felt so small. I headed up another set of stairs to a rooftop with one last statue, Mary knelt near the cross as Jesus looked down on the grotto from above. Being able to look down and see the people walking throughout the grotto below, I felt a strange connection with everyone there. We may not have known each other, but we were all here, sharing our energy and growing through osmosis.
I am not a religious person, but religious monuments like this always lead me to a feeling of tranquility. As I walked through this grotto, I couldn’t help but be transported into an aura that can only be described as spiritual. The energy from the people walking around was contagious and one would be hard-pressed to not feel their exuberance.
I must have been echoing that same energy as the next thing I knew, a woman asked me for help finding a certain room she was looking for, showing me a picture of it on her cell phone. We walked throughout the property searching, and right before we gave up, we found it. A quaint alter held in a dark corner, the only light coming from a small skylight above, shining on a space right near the door. Immediately, the woman dropped to her knees, rose her hands above her and bowed her head, closing her eyes. The sound of her prayer filled the chamber and she suddenly seemed so magnetic. Not wanting to disturb her, I quietly walked away. The sun was setting and I knew that this was the sign I was waiting for to end my day.
Coming back to my car I found one last distraction to dedicate my time to. Two swans on the other side of a fence had taken interest in a young girl. They stretched their long necks out again and again, trying to grab her dress or shoe. Whichever one was closer became the target of their jaws, snapping away as the girl shrieked with laughter. It was the epitome of a “you can’t catch me” teasing game. I sat there chuckling to myself wondering is she could get hurt if they managed to bite her, but the joy on her face quickly made me forget that concern. As I looked back at the grotto, I smiled, jubilant with the energy of the setting sun.
Closest Supercharger Dows IA 72 mi
904 Cardinal Ave, Dows, IA 50071
<iframe src=”https://www.google.com/maps/embed?pb=!1m14!1m8!1m3!1d11733.624671699108!2d-93.462744!3d42.6739379!3m2!1i1024!2i768!4f13.1!3m3!1m2!1s0x0%3A0x5987ca4c5afeeb8e!2sTesla%20Supercharger!5e0!3m2!1sen!2sus!4v1599921914443!5m2!1sen!2sus” width=”600″ height=”450″ frameborder=”0″ style=”border:0;” allowfullscreen=”” aria-hidden=”false” tabindex=”0″></iframe>
Shrine of the Grotto of the Redemption
208 1st Ave NW, West Bend, IA 50597
<iframe src=”https://www.google.com/maps/embed?pb=!1m14!1m8!1m3!1d11678.722140120284!2d-94.4457145!3d42.9639362!3m2!1i1024!2i768!4f13.1!3m3!1m2!1s0x0%3A0x4172e7c6de62ab01!2sShrine%20of%20the%20Grotto%20of%20the%20Redemption!5e0!3m2!1sen!2sus!4v1599921756908!5m2!1sen!2sus” width=”600″ height=”450″ frameborder=”0″ style=”border:0;” allowfullscreen=”” aria-hidden=”false” tabindex=”0″></iframe>