The Grotto was created by Father Paul Matthias Dobberstein, who was born in Germany and later immigrated to the United States. He was very artistic. While he was in seminary in Milwaukee, he became ill with pneumonia. He prayed to Mary (the mother of Jesus) to intercede for him, and promised to build a shrine to her if he lived. Well, he did live, and moved to West Bend, Iowa, to be a priest. He gathered rocks and stones for over a decade from all around the world, and began building the shrine in 1912 with one co-worker. They worked on the grotto for 42 years - right until the day he died at age 82. It's very fascinating! You can read the full story here.
It was definitely a welcomed break in our drive. Rooney and Finch appreciated being able to get out of the van and run around, although Finch didn't understand that you weren't supposed to touch the stones. I was stunned by the beauty in the individual stones and the creativity in the design. There are little rooms and stairs and balconies and all sorts of creative walkways.
The Grotto of the Redemption is the largest man-made grotto in the world. To some, it is considered the Eighth Wonder of the World and a "miracle in stone." There are actually nine separate grottos, each portraying a scene in the life of Christ. It attracts 100,000 visitors each year. I definitely want to go back!