Sometimes, the Google Gods are kind and relentless clicking turns up something unique and inspiring.
So it is with the discovery of a number of fantastical grottos smack dab in the middle of middle America. Just as with Chartres’ famed Maison Picassiette and Los Angeles’ Watts Towers, these outsized, outdoor mosaics are the products of extraordinary personal visions. Out of the dozens that exist, we have selected three to show you here. We find them absolutely spectacular and definitely worthy of a road trip.
Right up front, we want to say thank you to Debra Jane Seltzer whose website, www.RoadsideArchitecture.com is a virtual treasure trove of stop-the-car-and-grab-the-camera stops along America’s highways.
Billed as “The Largest Grotto in the World”, The Grotto of the Redemption was built as a tribute to the Blessed Virgin Mary by Father Paul Dobberstein. While a young seminarian, Father Dobberstein became critically ill with pneumonia. He vowed to the Virgin that if she would return his health to him, he would build a shrine in her honor.
Father Dobberstein worked for almost 50 years, from 1912 to 1954, on the Grotto. It is almost the length of a football field. There are actually nine individual grottos in the shrine, each one showcasing a hand-carved statute of Italian marble.
Father Dobberstein embellished his grotto with the jewels of the earth; azurite, geodes, jasper, petrified wood, quartz crystals and more. Some of these materials he sourced in the US, traveling from town to town enlisting the aid of locals in finding the most perfect specimens. Other materials were imported.
Here is a video clip from The History Channel’s Weird US.
For our Facebook likers, the link is: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RlrMYQ6z-Yk
Father Dobberstein’s remarkable accomplishment was the inspiration for more Midwest grotto-building.
The Dickeyville Grotto was the creation of Father Mattheus Wernerus, a German immigrant and pastor of the Holy Ghost Parish. Father Wernerus dedicated his labor of love to two themes: Love of God and Love of Country
Direct link to video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mJXX8Jqg7oc
Finally, we visit the work of more German immigrants . . .
The Wegners built their very personal grotto on their summer farm in Wisconsin after a trip to Dickeyville spurred them to create this roadside attraction.
“Unlike church-sponsored grottoes, the grotto garden the Wegners made is not overtly religious. There is a small chapel, and a prayer garden, but there are also family monuments, animal sculptures and birdhouses that are simply playful concrete constructions without overt spiritual purpose. The Wegners seemed more concerned about creating a democratic and inspiring roadside attraction than the traditional meditative grotto of spiritual mystery. The space they created is a visual embodiment of their progressive political and religious ideals, from the Peace Monument to the American Legion plaque to the multi-denominational Glass Chapel.” http://www.wurlington-bros.com/Museum/Grotto/Wegner1.html
Photo courtesy http://www.RoadsideArchitecture.com/