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Ave Maria Grotto, Alabama

Ave Maria Grotto is located in the heart of Alabama. Known throughout the world as "Jerusalem in Miniature," the grotto is a beautifully landscaped, four-acre park designed to provide a natural setting for the 125 miniature reproductions of some of the most famous historic buildings and shrines known to man.

The builder of the miniatures at the grotto was a Benedictine Monk, Brother Joseph Zoettl, O.S.B. Born in Landshut, Bavaria in 1878, he came to Saint Bernard Abbey at the age of 14 to attend school with the intention of becoming a monk. After being admitted as a Brother in the Abbey he was appointed to the power plant, and while there developed his hobby of building miniature. The first replicas were erected on the monastery recreation grounds. But due to the numerous visitors who came to view "Little Jerusalem," it was decided to move the miniature to the present site which originally served as a rock quarry for the Abbey. On May 17, 1934 the Ave Maria Grotto was dedicated. Br. Joseph continued his labor of love for over 40 years using materials sent from all over the world. In 1958, at the age of 80 he built his last model, the Basilica at Lourdes.

St. Bernard Abbey was founded in 1891. In 1892 Br. Joseph began his journey to America just several years after France donated the Statue of Liberty to the United States. Br. Joseph was a dedicated patriot paying homage to his new homeland and to the men who served this country. A simple man, the small monk in stature created his works from postcards, photographs and whatever friends shared with him.

Standing like sentries of time are Castle Trausnitz, where the local baron broke his promise of protection to the local people of Landshut, Bavaria. St. Martin's Church, which has the tallest brick tower in the world; and the Montserrat Abbey as well as Spain's pilgrimage site of the "Black Madonna." Other sites to mention are scenes of Jerusalem and the Holy Land, classic Roman landmarks such as St. Peter's, the Colosseum and catacombs; European wayside shrines; the famous Spanish Missions of Florida and the American Southwest. The focal point is a central "cave" covered with artificial stalagmites and stalactites- the Ave Maria Grotto.

Visit the Abbey Church and Abbey cemetery which is the final resting place of Brother Joseph. The path is lined with Br. Joseph's Stations of the Cross leading to a place of serenity and rest.

Ave Maria Grotto is adjacent to Bloomin' Festival Arts and Crafts Fair, April 19-20, 2008 - Recognized by the Southeast Tourism Society.

The St. Bernard Retreat and Conference Center provides a space for overnight accommodations for group tours. Fifty semi-private rooms, two meeting rooms, gym facilities, complete meal and banquet facilities available.

Our staff is experienced in helping plan your stay. Admission charge. Group tours welcome. Ample bus parking.

Ave Maria Grotto
1600 St. Bernard Drive, SE
Cullman, AL 35055
Tel: 256-734-4110
Tel: 800-722-0999

Please visit Saint Bernard Preparatory School on


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