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Ave Maria Grotto in Cullman, Alabama

Updated on November 28, 2012

A Garden Walk of Peace and Tranquility

The Ave Maria Grotto is one of my favorite places on earth. Just one visit to this amazing grotto and you will probably feel the same.

It would be next to impossible to stroll along the paved pathway and gaze upon such marvels and not feel the peace and tranquility touch your heart and soul. The walk follows a curving and winding trail through the four acre incredibly landscaped garden, which features the works of Brother Joseph Zoettl, a Benedictine monk.

Beauty, peace, and tranquility await you here.

Image Credit: Flickr Creative Commons by Geopungo

Ave Maria Grotto Walkway
Ave Maria Grotto Walkway

Jerusalem in Miniature

The Works of Brother Joseph Zoettl

While the official name for the site is the Ave Maria Grotto, it is also commonly known as "Jerusalem in Miniature". Imagine walking along a quiet pathway and viewing Jerusalem in its entirety from an extremely close-up view. It is nothing short of breathtaking.

Of course, Little Jerusalem isn't all the Grotto has to offer. There are 125 miniatures representing some of the most awe-inspiring shrines and buildings in the world--both present and past.

The park itself is on the grounds of St. Bernard Abbey in Cullman, Alabama. The miniatures were all designed and built by Brother Joseph Zoettl, one of the abbey's monks. He was limited in materials, and built his structures with whatever he had at hand. Eventually donations came in. These included bits of colored glass, marbles, costume jewelry, and other odds and ends. All were used by Brother Zoettl to make his masterpieces.

With his eye for detail and symmetry, he made the grotto a place of incredible peace and beauty.

Image Credit: Flickr Creative Commons by Geopungo

The Beauty is in the Details

Chipmunk Crossing at Ave Maria Grotto
Chipmunk Crossing at Ave Maria Grotto

Don't walk too quickly or you are sure to miss something. Several of the replications are worthy of an hour's study...and you still might not catch everything there is to see.

For instance, if you aren't paying close attention, this Chipmunk Crossing could be passed by without notice...

Image Credit: Flickr Creative Commons by Geopungo

Find the Ave Maria Grotto

Ave Maria Grotto on the Grounds of the St Bernard Abbey:
1600 St. Bernard Drive SE, Cullman, AL

get directions

A Guardian Angel for Your Car - Miracle or Coincidence?

My very first trip to the Grotto was made when my son was only 11. Being a single parent, it was a little scary driving from Indiana all the way to Florida. On the way down we made some short side trips to break up the long drive. One of them was to the Ave Maria Grotto.

After an amazing visit, we stopped by the Gift Shop before leaving, and I picked up a Guardian Angel clip for my car's visor. We made the trip all the way to Florida and back home to Indiana without a single problem.

The following day after our return, several miles from home on my way to work--my car had a blow-out. As this was before the time of cell phones, and my daily journey consisted of a lot of lonely country roads, this could have been a major problem. But my guardian angel was at work and the blow-out happened within sight of a gas station.

When I think about the possibility of that having happened a day or two earlier and being on the interstate alone with my young son, my blood chills. So I ask you--isn't it worth having one of these in your car? And the cars of all your loved ones? I do.

A Video Tour of the Grotto

"We are not at peace with others because we are not at peace with ourselves, and we are not at peace with ourselves because we are not at peace with God."

Thomas Merton, Trappist Monk

US Monasteries and Abbeys with Guest Rooms - When You Need a Spiritual Reboot

If your life is out of control and you find yourself longing for a true vacation away from it all, a guest stay at a monastery or abbey may be just the ticket. Please note that most of these locations do not charge a flat fee, but rather accept donations for stays. Most of them will give you a suggested donation amount.

Monasteries and Abbeys

Have you ever visited a monastery or abbey before?

See results

Find Your Peace at Home - Items that can Help

If you can't make it to the grotto or a monastery, you can bring a little of their atmosphere into your home.

Create Your Own Garden Grotto

Why not add a little peace and tranquility to your own back yard?

Do You Have a Place of Peace? - Won't You Share It With Us?

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    • Rangoon House profile image


      6 years ago from Australia

      Brother Joseph's labour of love must be a beautiful and inspiring marvel to admire. A wonderful and memorable diversion in a long road trip.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      I'd love to visit this place sometime. Thank you for sharing.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      I'm fortunate that my home is place of peace. This is a beautiful lens and a pleasure to read.

    • MermaidDoc profile image


      6 years ago

      My place of peace is in the forest around my own home. The big trees and wildflowers are very peaceful.

    • BLemley profile image

      Beverly Lemley 

      6 years ago from Raleigh, NC

      This looks like a nice peaceful place to visit! I've never heard of it ~ thanks for the great info!

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      I love the photo of the intro. Nice work.

    • SheilaMilne profile image


      6 years ago from Kent, UK

      Walking along the river always brings me peace. I'd never heard of this grotto before - it looks well worth a visit.

    • HenkWillemse profile image


      6 years ago

      Certainly looks worth the visit to me, nice lens.

    • randomthings lm profile image

      randomthings lm 

      6 years ago

      Hello. Very beautiful article. Lovely pictures. I feel more peaceful already! Thanks for sharing.


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