Holy Family Grotto, 1925, Wisconsin

— a pilgrimage

The artificial grotto must go way back. It is often, but not always, sacred. There are the Lourdes grottoes in churchyards, suggesting timeless cave worship; there are handmade caves in museums and amusement parks, too, complete with crystals and stalactites. The inland United States boasts acres of religious concretions, mostly built by Central European immigrant clerics. Although, in their obsessiveness and imitation of natural landforms, these environments recall the Indian mounds often found nearby, this grotto art seems to have originated in Europe, with its cave architecture, shell temples, and follies. And, whereas anthropologists imagine the mounds to have been a communal effort, on the order of pyramids or cathedrals, the grottoes are typically the product of one inspired individual, with maybe a devoted helper.

This album, with photos by ourselves, illustrates some of the grottoes Suzanne Mercury and I have visited in the past 25 years.

Grotto of the Redemption, West Bend, Iowa,
started in 1912 by Fr. Paul Dobberstein of Germany
and (like this page) still under construction
Holy Ghost Park, Dickeyville, Wisconsin,
started in 1925 by Fr. Mathias Wernerus of Germany
on the grounds of his parish church
Our Lady of Grace Grotto, West Burlington, Iowa,
started in 1929 by Frs. M. J. Kaufman and Damian Lavery
and renovated by St. Mary's parish in 1973
Ave Maria Grotto, Cullman, Alabama,
started in 1932 by Br. Joseph Zoetl of Bavaria,
featuring miniatures of shrines around the world
Black Madonna Shrine & Grottos, Eureka, Missouri,
started in 1938 by Br. Bronislaus Luszcz of Poland
on the grounds of St. Joseph Hill Infirmary

Where We Walked ~~~ Mary Ann Daly