Father Paul Dobberstein's Grotto of the Redemption – West Bend, Iowa - Atlas Obscura
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Father Paul Dobberstein's Grotto of the Redemption

West Bend, Iowa

A four story, football field-sized, nine-grotto creation made of shells, minerals, and rare stones. 


When Paul Dobberstein, a young man studying to be a priest, fell ill, he made one of those promises to God that most people never fulfill.

Father Paul Dobberstein promised that if he survived, he would build a great shrine to the Virgin Mary. He lived, and completed his end of the bargain by building the massive Grotto of the Redemption.

Begun in 1912, it was built using rare rocks from hundreds of miles away. With shells and semi precious stones donated from across the country, Dobberstein and his helper, the young Father Louis Greving, built the four-story, nine-grotto creation. Each grotto is dedicated to a different religious theme like the Garden of Eden or the Ten Commandments.

When Father Dobberstein passed away in 1954, his helper Father Greving took over and continued to work on the grotto until he too passed away in 2002. Together, they spent nearly a century working on the grotto.

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