Mini Jerusalem in Cullman, Alabama
My pictures of The Ava Maria Grotto
Facts About: Ava Maria Grotto
I have lived in Alabama all of my life and have always passed signs for the Ava Maria Grotto on the interstate. I have always wanted to go see what the signs were talking about. This tourist attraction is an amazing place to visit in Alabama. It is located in Cullman, AL. That is relatively close to most all everyone in the central and north parts of Alabama.
I remember the dreadful day in April 27, 2011, that slammed into the state of Alabama. When I was fortunate enough to get to visit the Ava Maria Grotto, I thought it was amazing that the tornadoes hit so close, and I mean really close as large as the storm was that hit the Cullman area but yet, still didn't hit the Grotto. The Ava Maria Grotto was not touched in the least. As far, as those storms go it could only be God, that protected his work.
The Ava Grotto was a great spot to learn about different religious statues. The Grotto was created by Joseph Zoettel and spent 50 years crafting what most of us would call, "plain 'ole junk" into beautiful works of art. He would construct different religious sculptures to depict different scenes and stories from the Bible. When people realized his talent and his dedication to sculpting, they would send him scrap objects of various materials. Before he started sculpting at Saint Bernard Abbey, he was known for sculpting ash trays, small statues and crucifixes.
Some of the objects that were sent to Brother Joseph Zoettel were colored glass, marble, cold cream jars, punctured commode floats, wrecked marble, broken bathroom tile, costume jewelry, sand, mortar, shells gifts from every state of the union and from many of the foreign countries also.
History of The Grotto
Ava Maria Grotto builder of the miniatures was a Benedictine Monk. Brother Joseph Zoettl. Brother Zoettl, was born in Bavaria in 1878. He was seriously injured in an accident that left him with a hunchback. He came to Saint Bernard Abbey in 1892 where the first replicas were done on the Monastery grounds but, they were so popular and that area couldn't handle all of the traffic. So, a new site was selected on May 17, 1934. The Ava Maria Grotto was at that time was moved to the large location where it's at today. There are one hundred twenty five miniatures, reproductions of famous churches, buildings and shrines. At only three acres of land, this site brings visitors from all over the world.
As you first arrive, there is a gift shop where you pay a small fee to view the grounds. Begin with the short video describing the Grotto and it's history. The video is about one-two minute long and is very informative before you enter the garden. There is a brochure that you will be given that explains each and every sculpture, cross, angel, scene from the Bible and more. You are left to go on a self guided tour of the Ava Maria Grotto and you are allowed to take video or pictures.
The grounds of Saint Bernard Abbey houses a really large gift shop and you can also pick up a souvenir or two while you are there. Some of the following things are found at the gift shop: crucifixes, bibles, purses, bible covers, music, religious pocket coins, rosaries/chaplets, Holy Water and Holy Water bottles.
A Spiritual Journey
As I took my trip to Ava Maria Grotto, I was struck by a very peaceful place. The grounds are peaceful, the trails through The Grotto itself are peaceful. The same event happened to us while on our trip to The Ava Maria Grotto, on two separate occasions. A monk was feeding the ducks or fish, in the same place and a monk was walking down one of the roads again, just like our first trip to the area. We just thought it a neat coincidence.
A welcome center is there for visitors to arrive at and begin the tour. This is where the story begins for the overnight visitors. It's such a peaceful and humbling experience visiting the man made replication of some of the world's most religious areas and moments.
You just feel better when visiting this Shrine to the past and present. It's very moving and all the miniatures are articulately made and you can tell it took lots of time and handmade craftsmanship. Whether your a Christian, Jew or Muslim this Shrine is a place for all to come and pray.
If you have ever been to the Ava Maria Grotto I would love to know what you think of it. Leave comments in the box at the bottom of this page.
Mini Jerusalem in Cullman, Alabama
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Ava Maria Grotto Video
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Location of The Grotto
© 2012 Buster Johnson