Last weekend when I visited Allen in Cullman, Alabama, he ended up taking me to the Ave Maria Grotto. It is located on the grounds of St. Bernard Abbey, the only Benedictine monastery of men in the state of Alabama founded in 1891. You would never think that something so magnificent would be tucked away in a place I had never heard of before. The Grotto consists of a landscaped hillside of 125 small stone and cement structures, the handiwork of Brother Joseph Zoetl a monk of the Abbey for almost 70 years. Brother took time to construct some miniature buildings using stone, concrete, and unwanted donated materials such as broken plates, costume jewelry, ceramic tile, beads, marbles, seashells, etc. Each structure is based on his work from extensive readings of history and the Bible. Of all the factual replicas constructed, he had seen only about six: those in his home town of Landshut, Bavaria and those at St. Bernard Abbey. All other were constructed from photographs or from printed descriptions.
This little organ was my favorite along with the dragon who lives underneath!
Can you spot the leaning tower of Pisa in the above picture?
In the picture below is the actual Ave Maria Grotto itself. Grotto is Italian for cave and this one stands 27 feet high, 27 feet wide, and 27 feet deep. Brother Joseph built the altar using bits of crushed glass, stone and cement. He also made the stalactites which hang from the ceiling.
How adorable is that chipmunk crossing?!
I'm on my way to Cullman again today, and I'm excited to see what adventures we get into this time!
Till next time,