Monday, September 16, 2013

Ave Maria Grotto - Cullman, AL

The Ave Maria Grotto is quite a testament to the work of the Benedictine Monk, Brother Joseph Zoettl. He came to the U.S. from Bavaria and spent almost 70 years at St. Bernard Abbey in prayer and working in the powerhouse, shoveling coal. When he had spare time, he began making small grottoes and miniature buildings out of stone and concrete and donated materials such as costume jewelry and seashells and marbles. As he created, he placed them in the gardens for visitors to see and as the number of visitors grew, his creations were moved to the former stone quarry. Brother Joseph was a small guy and seemingly quite lonely and humble. He spent his time reading history and Scripture and creating these monuments from what he read or from photographs he'd seen. Oh how he loved the Church and Our Mother and her Son!

We really have no clue what to expect when we wander off the interstate and into the beautiful St. Bernard Abbey property. We follow the signs and land in a nice gift shop which of course makes us pause and look around for any goodies we may want to take home. But we make ourselves wait until after the tour. We are directed to a room to hear the history of the Grotto and then given a "self-guided tour" paper and led out the back door of the gift shop.

It is extremely hot but the Grotto is heavily treed, keeping us cool and allowing us to enjoy each and every small aspect of the work Brother Joseph has laid out for us. Here is a small sampling.

Wayside Shrine

St. Peter's Basilica and more

Ave Maria Grotto
Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe
St. Bernard Abbey Chapel

How many times we have passed the Ave Maria Grotto sign while cruising down interstate 65 South! How happy we were to stop this day and witness the work of one man dedicated to Our Lady and the history of the Church! We enjoyed finding all the different donations Brother Joseph used to create his Grottoes and we took time talking about what the buildings were and where they are in our world. If you ever have the time as you're headed south or coming up north, take a moment and visit. You'll be glad you did!


  1. I was at Ava Maria Grotto yrs ago with my family still have the photos beautiful place to see