Saint Bernard Abbey
Cullman, Alabama
A series of Cross photos by Eric Shindelbower

     The Saint Bernard Abbey is a monastery of Catholic monks who, through prayer and work, strive to seek one thing:  the love of God and neighbor.  The St. Bernard Abbey is the only Benedictine Abbey in Alabama and it was founded in 1891.*

The Ave Maria Grotto - "Jerusalem In Miniature"

     The Ave Maria Grotto is located on the grounds of St. Bernard Abbey and consists of a landscaped hillside of 125 small stone and cement structures, the handiwork of the creative genius, Brother Joseph Zoettel, O.S.B., for almost 70 years a monk of St. Bernard Abbey.*

(Click on photo to view larger image)

Christ Statue St. Martins Church Holly Cross Mtn Rock of Ages San Juan Capistrano Mission
Carmel of Lisieux St. Peters Church St. Frances Cabrini Ave Maria Grotto Ave Maria Grotto
Cross Grotto Scene from The Holy Land Wayside Shrine Manchuria Cathedral Crucifixion Tower
Ecce Homo Shrine Our Lady Fatima St. Pope Pius X Crucifixion Tower.
Crucifixion Tower. Carmel of Lisieux. Cross at the Ave Maria Grotto. Robe at The Ave Maria Grotto. Wall Crucifix.

Opened in 1934 on the site of a former stone quarry the Grotto miniature park was a continuation of the creative work of Brother Joe, who built his first replicas about 1912, and his last, the beautiful Lourdes Basilica Church replica in 1958, constructed when he was 80 years old.
     Brother Joseph was born in 1878 in Landshut, Bavaria and in 1892 came to the newly founded St. Bernard Abbey.  His monastic life was spent at the Abbey power house.  When not busy shoveling coal into the furnaces, he began to construct miniature buildings from discarded pieces of building materials.
     Brother Joe placed his cement and stone creations in the Abbey gardens but due to the large number of visitors coming to see them they were moved to the present site in 1934.
     Brother Joseph gathered ideas for his creations from extensive readings of history and the bible.  Of all the replicas he has seen only about six of them:  those of his hometown of Landshut and those of St. Bernard Abbey.  All the others were constructed from photos or from memory.
     Brother Joe who died in 1961 is buried in the Abbey Cemetery, one hundred yards north of the Gift Shop.*


Saint Bernard Abbey Cemetery

Station V Cemetery & Chapel Hand Made Cross Frances Mary Balfour
Chapel Window. Chapel Cross. Chapel Window. Crucifix in Cemetery.
Crucifix in St. Bernard Abbey Cemetery      


Saint Bernard Preparatory School

     Located in the Appalachian foothills of North Alabama and just outside of Cullman, a city of about 18,000 inhabitants, the campus of Saint Bernard Preparatory School is situated on more than eight hundred wooded acres.  These natural surroundings make a marvelous setting for the pursuits of academia.  Saint Bernard Preparatory School is Alabama's only Catholic boarding school.*

Admin Building Benedict Hall


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*Abbey - Excerpted from Welcome to Saint Bernard Abbey leaflet.
*Grotto - Excerpted from A Self Guided Tour Of The Ave Maria Grotto by Father Aloysius Plaisance, OSB., Ph.D.
*Prep School - Excerpted from Saint Bernard Preparatory School campus information web page.
Photographs by  Eric Shindelbower.

Background pattern courtesy of

Web page design and content - Eric Shindelbower