Ave Maria Grotto is a four-acre park on the grounds of Saint Bernard Abbey in Cullman, Ala. The grotto park features roughly 125 miniature buildings of concrete and recycled materials. The miniatures are the work Brother Joseph Zoettl, who came to the abbey in 1892 when he was 14 years old. In 1918 Brother Joseph began building miniatures of concrete, and these buildings were first placed near a small grotto tucked away on the abbey grounds. In 1932, however, Abbot Bernard Menges charged Brother Joseph with building a new, large grotto in what was the abbey's old rock quarry. What is now known as Ave Maria Grotto thus opened in 1934 and has drawn visitors from across the globe ever since. It remains not only a unique folk art environment, but also a testament to one man's perseverance, devotion, creativity and connection to God.


Ave Maria Grotto holds miniature replicas of real structures like Saint Peter's Basilica, the Alamo, the Colosseum in Rome, the Leaning Tower of Pisa and Castle Trausnitz. It also holds make-believe structures, like the Temple of the Fairies, and biblical representations like Noah's Ark and Tower of Babel. Visitors find in Brother Joseph's handiwork usage of objects like bird cages, cold cream jars, rosary beads, marbles and sea shells.