Title of Work
Brother Joseph Zoettl 1 (with preceding Disney parade clip)
Date of Work
Super 8 film
Art & Design Study Collection: James Smith Pierce Collection
Stored: JSP.FAST.FILM BOX 1
UND Art Collections Repository
Born in Brooklyn, New York, James Smith Pierce received his PhD in art history from Harvard University. During his career as a professor, Pierce also became an accomplished artist, whose artworks were included in important exhibitions (including a show on land art at the Hirshhorn Museum in Washington, DC) and books on contemporary earthworks and site-specific sculpture. Pierce was also a photographer, exhibition curator, and art collector.
Brother Joseph Film preceded by clip from Disney Parade ca. 1976.
About Brother Joseph Zoettl:
Brother Joseph Zoettl was born in The Kingdom of Bavaria (now Bavaria, Germany) in 1878. Early in life he was involved in an accident that left him with a slight hunch. As a teenager he immigrated to America and settled in Alabama. There he studied at a (then) newly founded Benedictine monastery, St. Bernard, and became a monk. Brother Joseph’s disability prevented him from being ordained as a priest due to a rule at the time that did not allow “any man with a distracting disability” to achieve priesthood. Instead he worked at the monastery’s power house and constructed small shrines and models of religious landmarks from donated scrap materials.
Brother Joseph originally placed these sculptures in the monastery’s garden, where they soon gained attention from visitors and were sometimes sold as souvenirs. However they were eventually relocated to the monastery’s hillside garden as visitor foot traffic increased. Brother Joseph then went on to create the Ava Maria Grotto, a four-acre park in a former quarry on monastery grounds. The grotto contains 125 miniature reproductions of iconic religious structures placed along a forested trail that winds down a terraced hillside. A majority of the models were created from photographs or descriptions of landmarks from the monastery’s library. Brother Joseph continued to add to the grotto until 1958 and passed away in the monastery infirmary in 1961. The Ava Maria Grotto was added to National Register of Historic Places in 1984.
Digitally preserved, 2021.
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