Located in little West Bend in north central Iowa, the Grotto of the Redemption has been drawing faithful and curious visitors for more than a century. The shrine is the lifework of the Rev. Paul Dobberstein (1872-1954), a German-born Roman Catholic priest who served the local Sts. Peter and Paul Church. He began building his grotto (a natural or artificial cave used for devotional purposes) in 1912 using rocks and stones collected during his travels. He labored on the shrine for 42 years; after his death, parishioner Matt Szerensce and the Rev. Louis Greving, Dobberstein’s successor, completed the work.
The shrine actually includes nine separate grottos, each depicting a different Biblical scene. While the statues are of uneven artistic quality, the walls of the grottos are a geological marvel, embedded with rose quartz, polished agates, crystals, jasper, topaz, malachite, stalagmites and petrified wood. In the nearby church, Dobberstein also created a Christmas Chapel with a nativity scene that includes a Brazilian amethyst weighing more than 300 pounds. On the side of the Grotto of the Redemption is a charming bronze statue of Dobberstein holding a rock, a fitting tribute to the man who created this remarkable construction in the middle of Iowa farmland. Even if you’re not a devout Catholic, the site is still impressive and inspiring.