Family Adventures · Museums and History · Northwest Iowa · Roadside Iowa

Iowa’s Monument to Redemption-The World’s Largest Grotto

In one of Iowa’s most rural areas lies one of the Earth’s greatest collections of stones, gems, crystals, shells, fossils, petrified wood….You’ll see.

West Bend, IA: Palo Alto County (Our 42nd County!)

What if I told you that you could view absolute beauty from every state in America and every country on the planet in one place in Iowa. The rock hounds of the world may have their unofficial haven in the middle of NW-Iowa and its in the form of the world’s largest grotto. Be prepared to walk the inspirational grounds of The Grotto of the Redemption.

We pulled up to the grotto just before an early March blizzard and the winds were whipping through the parish grounds. This did not stop our visit nor slow us down. It only took seconds to be in awe of everything the grotto represented. Religion, science, art, history, geography, architecture and education…

The amazing processes of the grotto started in 1912 by Father Paul Dobberstein. Over his life he amassed one of the most impressive rock collections and put it to good use by constructing his massive grotto. Millions of stones from around the world would start pouring in year after year and Father Paul’s promise to God would be fulfilled on the prairie of Iowa.

Statues depicting biblical events are peppered throughout the grotto in the open and in rooms that seem to appear before your eyes as you wind through the paths, each with endless eye-catching patterns that seem to be impossible to duplicate.

The story of Earth in both scientific manner and Christian history blends together in a harmonious way with every discovery at the grotto. The sheer magnitude of time, discipline, and patience was something that I couldn’t stop thinking of.

Art within the art was in full display. Meticulously placed mosaics can be found in every station of the cross and in dozens of other areas. It proved that no project is too big when it comes to appreciating the finer details of your passion.

The grotto isn’t the end of the parish’s rock hunt. The Church of Saint’s Peter & Paul are home to its own unique treasures. The stained glass windows are decorated with the look of mosaics that have inspired the parish for over 100 years. But it doesn’t stop with these beautiful windows.

Inside the church is the iconic Christmas Chapel depicting the traditional birth of Jesus in a scene that can only be witnessed in West Bend, IA. Some of the parishes most prized stones are on display in the chapel, including the world’s largest amethyst at the center of the depiction.


We took one more trip through the grotto as we made our way to the parking lot. Our time at the grotto felt peaceful and fulfilling. There was no struggle on the these grounds between religion and science. The decor that has created the world’s largest grotto, “The Eighth Wonder of the World”, was millions of years in the making. A simple priest who was devoted to the lord that he felt throughout his life and work created this masterpiece which stands beautifully through all seasons. And now we all get to visit this iconic structure and appreciate all of that no matter what your faith is or isn’t. The Middle-East, Europe and Africa are home to some the oldest religious landmarks, relics, structures and art. But the largest grotto is right here in Iowa. And The Iowa Gallivant couldn’t be prouder of that.



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