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The Ave Maria Grotto: "The Scenic Shrine of the South"



The Ave Maria Grotto: "The Scenic Shrine of the South"
Reading Level
     edHelper's suggested reading level:   grades 7 to 9
     Flesch-Kincaid grade level:   6.82

Vocabulary
     challenging words:    birdcages, inkbottles, jerusalem, cave-like, hunchback, founded, deformity, shrine, dedication, newly, centerpiece, union, monastery, historic, power, monk
     content words:    Ave Maria Grotto, Saint Bernard Abbey, Maria Grotto, Brother Joseph Zoettl, Joseph Zoettl, United States, Father Dominic Downs, Brother Joseph, Bernard Abbey, Bernard Abby


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The Ave Maria Grotto: "The Scenic Shrine of the South"
By Joyce Furstenau
  

1     A grotto is a cave-like recess or a structure made to look like a cave. Sometimes it is used as a kind of garden feature. Grottoes are often made to display religious symbols or a shrine. Grottoes can be very small or large enough to walk into. The Ave Maria Grotto is a four-acre park located at Saint Bernard Abbey in Cullman, Alabama. It is known throughout the world as "Jerusalem in Miniature." The park is the setting for 125 miniature reproductions of some of the most famous historic buildings and shrines in the world. Together, these shrines are called the "Ave Maria Grotto." These miniatures represent a lifetime of work of Benedictine monk Brother Joseph Zoettl.
 
2     Joseph Zoettl was born in Germany in 1878. He immigrated to the United States as a teenager. He settled in northern Alabama. He was injured in an accident that left him with a hunchback. Perhaps because of his deformity, he joined the newly founded Benedictine monastery in Cullman, Alabama, to complete his studies. He took his vows at age nineteen. His job was to run the monastery's power plant. It was about this time he began his hobby of building miniature shrines. He started tinkering with leftover cement and chunks of stone that he found lying around outside the monastery power plant in his free time. He built replicas of Bible scenes from old inkbottles and rusted out birdcages.
 
3     One day, Father Dominic Downs came to Brother Joseph with some small statues. He asked him to make a small grotto for each of them. He wanted to sell them in the monastery gift shop. Brother Joseph made only two, but they sold quickly. He was asked to make more. Soon it became a regular business. By 1932, he had made nearly five thousand of the grottoes.

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