The Ave Maria Grotto is a 4-acre landscaped park featuring miniature reproductions of famous historic buildings and religious shrines around the world. It is located in an old quarry on the grounds of St. Bernard Abbey in Cullman, Alabama, which is about an hour's drive north of Birmingham. This fascinating site, known to some as "Jerusalem in Miniature", was created by a Benedictine monk named Brother Joseph Zoettl from the 1930s through the 1950s. Each of its 125 miniature reproductions is made from donated materials such as bricks, marbles, tiles, jewelry, sea shells, pipes, and other items. If you like exploring unique attractions while you're traveling, the Ave Maria Grotto is well worth a stop.
Things to Do
- Go on a tour of the grotto - you can see magnificent miniatures of famous sites such as St. Peter's Basilica, the Leaning Tower of Pisa, Hansel and Gretel's Temple of the Fairies, and a huge array of religious sites and scenes from ancient Jerusalem.
- Watch your child as they enjoy the scavenger hunt for the grotto's youngest visitors, which encourages them to explore the site and find all kinds of tiny objects.
- Visit Brother Joseph's workshop, where you can see the collection of postcards he used as the basis for most of his models
Ave Maria Grotto Insider Tips
- If you want to spend the night in the area, consider staying at the St. Bernard Retreat and Conference Center, which also has beautiful nature trails that lead through the nearby forest.
- Stop by the gift shop, where you can purchase souvenirs of your visit to the Ave Maria Grotto, as well as religious items like books, statues, and rosaries.
- Don't forget to bring along your camera! You'll want to take photos of this one-of-a-kind attraction, as well as the life-size bronze sculpture of its creator, Brother Joseph.