It had been a few years since I have been to the Grotto of the Redemption in West Bend, and wow, it was just as exciting. It took me a bit to calm down and literally focus the camera…there are so many amazing sights, and almost impossible for photographs to do justice…but I tried.
Grotto of the Redemption
Father Paul Dobberstein
West Bend, IA
Built: 1912-1959

As a young seminarian, German-born Father Paul Matthias Dobberstein became critically ill with pneumonia, at a time when penicillin had yet to be invented. As he fought for his life he prayed to the Blessed Virgin Mary to intercede for him for the grace of health. He promised to build a shrine in her honor of he lived.
He recovered, Dobberstein completed his studies at the Seminary of St. Francis near Milwaukee, and after his ordination he came to West Bend as Pastor in 1898. For over a decade he was stockpiling rocks and precious stones, and secured the parcel of land. The actual work of began to take shape in 1912, without the aid of any blueprints.
Dobberstein had an invaluable coworker at the Grotto. Matt Szerensce, whom Dobberstein referred to occasionally as “my good right hand” began working with the priest as a young man, since the laying of the first stone. Graduating from high school in 1912, Szerensce signed on as full-time grotto collaborator, a career move ultimately resulting in fifty-two years of intense labor.
There are almost a hundred carloads of rocks and stones, the vast bulk of which had to be processed, stored, classified and handled many times before it found it’s final and proper place in the harmonious structure. Winters were often spent making the rosettes of crystals that would be added to the grotto in the warmer months. The entire panoramic beauty is made of 9 grottos or scenes from the life of Christ, creating the story of redemption.
Until 1947, all of the work was done by hand. Finally, the urging of Father Greving to get an electrical hoist to lift the rocks, cement, steel, and stones was heeded. No accounting was made either of the many man-hours of labor involved in building the Grotto or the money expended in gathering the stones and shaping them into a harmonious unit.

A Dobber-stein!
Oh, and if you do go there – be sure to visit the St. Peter’s and Paul’s church next door to see the Christmas Chapel, which contains the finer rock specimens that Father Dobberstein deemed too precious to withstand the outdoors.