Ave Maria Grotto in Cullman, Alabama
The St. Bernard Abbey and Cemetery
The Abbey was founded in 1891. It is the only Benedictine monastery of men in the State of Alabama. The site is beautiful and open to anyone who would like to take a self guided tour and move along at their own pace.
The gift shop is located between the Abbey and the Grotto and has some amazing gift items. I recommend stopping there on the way out because you will not leave empty handed.
You don't have to be religious to stop here, the craft of the miniature structures is worth the stop alone.
St. Bernard Abbey, Cullman, Alabama
Who was Brother Joseph Zoetl
Brother Joesph Zoetl was born in 1878, Landshut, Bavaria. He arrived at the Abbey in 1892, where he spent his life in prayer and laboring in the Abbey powerhouse. During his quiet time, he constructed 125 miniature structures. He used any scrap he could find, like broken plates, costume jewelry, broken tile, marbles and sea shells and many more items donated to him.
As he built them, they were placed near the monastery, but in time he would outgrow the space and in 1934, they moved them to its present location where the large number of visitors could have more space to enjoy them.
The amazing thing, is that Brother Joseph had only been in one other place in his lifetime and that was Landshut, Bavaria; where he was born. He built these structures from reading the Bible and studying history. So of all 125 miniature structures that he had built. He only saw 6 of them in person. His mind captured so much detail and it shows in his work.
When Brother Joseph died in 1961, he was buried at the Abbey Cemetery, which was the final resting place of the monks from the Abbey.
Although Brother Joseph has been gone for many years, his works are there for all to enjoy.
I highly recommend this place to anyone, religious or not.
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