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Gallery: Ave Maria Grotto and St. Bernard Abbey

I took a few dozen snapshots at the Ave Maria Grotto and a few of the other places on the St. Bernard Abbey grounds during a recent visit to Cullman.

May 9, 2020 was a beautiful day for my first visit there in over 35 years. I hope you enjoy the 40-plus photos below as much as I enjoyed my visit.

Please also see my other Cullman-area historic site photos on this article: Exploring Cullman: One of north Alabama’s most unique Southern Outings.

Ave Maria Grotto photos

Brother Joseph Zoet, the man who hand built the miniature structures of Ave Maria Grotto, was a Benedictine monk at St. Bernard Abbey for almost 70 years.

He started placing his artwork in the gardens around the monastery in 1912. They were moved to the present location in 1934, and he created his last one in 1958 when he was 80 years old. 

From 1932 to 1934, another monk at the abbey, Brother Patrick O'Neill, established the landscaping that helped provide the park-like setting on the hillside that once was an abandoned rock quarry. 

I found it to be a great setting for bird- and lizard-watching. I imagine there are a great deal of other small creatures living amongst the tiny structures.

Thousands of visitors enjoy the grotto each month. Admission is charged. For more information, visit their website at

St. Bernard Abbey photos

The Benedictine abbey complex includes a church, a prep school, a camp, a working farm and the monk residential buildings. There are also accommodations and a conference center. There is a walkway to a cemetery next to the Ave Maria Grotto parking lot.

Tourists should respect the privacy of the monks, campers and students when applicable. 

See their websites: