West Bend's world-famous Grotto of the Redemption is far more than a tourist attraction - although it truly is one of the Hawkeye State's most visited venues. Its purpose is deeply spiritual. Quite simply, it portrays in stone the story of mankind's redemption by Jesus Christ.
This weekend, three days of festivities - beginning Friday and running through Sunday - will celebrate the 100th anniversary of the start of construction on what is truly a miracle in stone.
The grotto was conceived by the Rev. Paul Dobberstein, a Catholic priest who began life in Germany and emigrated to the United States in 1872. Upon recovering from a life-threatening illness while he was a seminarian, Dobberstein was inspired to build a permanent stone shrine dedicated to God's magnificence.
That the shrine he ultimately built is located in West Bend is basically an accident of history. The young priest was assigned to be pastor of Sts. Peter and Paul Catholic Church in West Bend in 1898. He was to remain there the rest of his life and devote a portion of his time to conceiving and then building what has become a group of nine separate grottos. Each of the grottos portrays a scene from the life of Jesus of Nazareth.
Early in his tenure in West Bend, Dobberstein began collecting the stone for his project. Actual construction began in 1912 and continued for decades. Dobberstein labored on this spiritual undertaking until his death in 1954. Others have continued the work in the decades since.
The Grotto is an amazing and inspirational work of faith. An array of materials have been utilized in its creation. It was Dobberstein's vision that those who visited the Grotto would see the beauty of God in the magnificence and beauty of the stone and other natural materials used to create it.
Clearly, anyone who has visited the Grotto will recognize that this expectation has been gloriously achieved. The end result is the largest structure of its type in the world. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
The Grotto of the Redemption is one of the most inspiring religious sites not only in Iowa, but in the United States. The Messenger joins in saluting Dobberstein and the many others who have helped build this remarkable structure and are committed to its preservation and enhancement.