We just got back from our second mini-vacation in Iowa (who knew there was so much to see in Iowa???).  This one really was one to remember.

We went down to see the Grotto of the Redemption and renew our wedding vows there. We get married again in a new way every year (this was wedding #16!), and we found out about the grotto and decided it would be a great spot.

We had no idea how amazing it would be.

Wow. It really is hard to even write about this place, because it really did just leave us silent and in awe so much of the time.  We went four times in the day and a half we were in West Bend, at the kids’ request.

You can read about the history here, but the upshot is that a priest spent pretty much his adult life building this shrine to the Virgin Mary and Jesus, and it’s entirely constructed of rare and spectacular rocks, minerals, stalactites, crystals, etc.

Next year marks the 100th anniversary of the start of the grotto.  The original priest worked on it until the day he died (in his late 70’s), and then other priests have kept up his work.

Throughout the grotto are depictions of stories from the bible, from Adam and Eve to the Sermon on the Mount to the 14 Stations of the Cross. Jack especially loved taking Alex through the rooms and telling every story to Alex.

Much of the grotto was constructed with stalactites and crystals from places like Carlsbad Caverns, where owners gave the priest permission to take anything he wanted from their underground caves for years. He hauled back the beautiful treasures by truck and train from all around the country (and from other countries as well).

They estimate that it would cost $4 million to replace just the minerals today.

And it all exists in this sprawling, unguarded, open structure in the middle of a tiny town in Iowa.  Admission is free, and you’re welcome to come and go day and night.  At night, it’s even lit up.

Words, descriptions and pictures cannot possibly capture this place. Here’s a few images to try though…

We learned history, religious education, geology, geography and so much more, in the most amazing way.

In addition to the amazing grotto, there was also the fact that we got to sleep in the Safari Suite of our hotel (the manager gave us a great rate after hearing our wedding story!).

And the trip also had sod houses and feeding swans and more…

Believe it or not, that’s just a fraction of the photos I took!  It was all so unbelievable.

Victoria took photos of our grotto wedding, too, and I’ll share a few of those once she has them uploaded.

It was a really amazing couple of days!

And now I really think we’re done with Iowa for a while….  🙂




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