Iowa is full of “world’s largest” things. And that includes the Grotto of the Redemption, the world’s largest manmade grotto, in West Bend, Iowa.
This northwestern Iowa attraction has been called “a miracle in stone” and is often referred to as the eighth wonder of the world. Construction on the grotto began in 1912 and continued for almost 100 years before it was finally deemed complete. Today you can visit the grotto for yourself and experience a truly impressive artistic achievement.
Whether you consider yourself a religious person or not, this unique attraction is worth experiencing in person. From the sheer scale of the grotto to its intense level of detail, this manmade wonder is sure to leave an impression.
History of the Grotto of the Redemption
Paul Dobberstein immigrated from Germany in 1892. He then entered the Seminary of St. Francis near Milwaukee to prepare for the priesthood. When Dobberstein became critically ill with pneumonia, he prayed to the Virgin Mary to heal him and promised to build a shrine in her honor if he lived. Dobberstein recovered and in 1898 he was appointed to West Bend, Iowa’s St. Peter and Paul Catholic Church where he remained for the rest of his life.
Though Dobberstein had been collecting stones and precious gems for nearly a decade, it wasn’t until 1912 that he began to construct the grotto. In 1954, when Dobberstein passed away, his successor, Father Greving, continued work on the grotto for nearly 50 years.
Today the grotto is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and attracts more than 100,000 visitors every year. While Dobberstein did not like to discuss the matter, it is estimated that over $4.3 million of stones and precious gems were used to construct the Grotto of the Redemption.
Plan Your Visit to the Grotto of the Redemption
The grotto is open year-round, 24 hours a day and seven days per week. Tours are offered, but you can also explore the grotto alone at your own pace.
Grotto of the Redemption, 300 N. Broadway in West Bend, Iowa
Share Your Thoughts
I would love to hear from you! Have you ever visited a manmade grotto? Is the Grotto of the Redemption on your to-visit list?