Joliet, Montana

9739 Hwy 212, Joliet, MT

In a wide grassland valley on the edge of the Rocky Mountains, far from the green prairies and woodlands of the Midwest, is this grotto-style rock environment. Adolph Land constructed the rock garden from 1957 to 1980 with the help of his wife Helen and other friends and family. The Lands moved to Montana in 1952 from Iowa, where they had no doubt been inspired by some of the many grottoes there. A small gift shop building next to Highway 212 makes it appear that the garden was once a operated as a roadside tourist attraction, although nowadays the site is quiet and mostly visited by mosquitoes. It is still well-tended by the current owners and free for visitors to explore. Please respect the privacy of the owners who live in a house just west of the garden.

Unlike the contemplative mysticism of Catholic grottoes and shrines, The Pathway Through the Bible is a didactic rock garden illustrating famous Biblical scenes and characters. There is an obvious order on the pathway one should follow through the garden, from the creation of Genesis to the climax of the crucifixion and the empty tomb. Likewise, each rock structure in the garden is meant to evoke a particular story from the Bible either literally or figuratively. Instead of the dizzying confections of surface and texture found in Catholic shrines, these constructions point beyond themselves to the final authority of the Bible as their purpose and further explanation.

This is not to say that the Pathway Through The Bible is simply a programmatic roadside attraction on the level of Storybook Gardens or the Living Bible Museum. No, there is a real delight in the rock constructions and beauty of their placement. Though the structures themselves are built of unadorned rough local stone, with only small accents of broken glass or etched polished granite, clever details abound. At the Sermon on the Mount, hundreds of flat stones are cemented upright around the central pillar, like an eager crowd leaning in to hear every word of Christ, represented by a central column. The massive Mount Ararat descends to earth as a rainbow buttress with a small stone etched "Noah" at its base. Look in a hidden corner and you may see a gnome guarding a faucet to water the flowers, or a ceramic squirrel peeking out of a hole in a wall. There are too many small playful symbols and details to notice on a single visit to the garden, which creates an open-ended, relaxed feel to the place much like the mysteries made manifest in Catholic shrines.

The Pathway Through the Bible is located about 30 miles southwest of Billings, along Highway 212 just north of Joliet.

Legend
  1. Lamp post
  2. Sundial
  3. Guidebooks
  4. Solomon's Porch
  5. Pathway sign
  6. Creation of the Universe
  7. Tree of Knowledge
  8. Enoch
  9. Adam & Eve
  10. Mount Ararat / Noah's Ark
  11. Jacob, Isaac, Abraham
  12. Altar
  13. Oak of Mamre
  14. Lot's Wife
  15. Sinai
  16. Mary's Well
  17. Rebekah
  18. Daniel in the Lion's Den
  19. The Wise Men's Tower
  20. Joseph's Granary
  21. PAX mosaic
  22. John the Baptist fountain
  23. The Stable
  24. Lazarus
  25. Mount of Temptation
  26. Jordan River
  27. Sermon on the Mount
  28. East gate
  29. Crucifixion
  30. The Tomb, Alpha and Omega

References and Links to Pathway Through the Bible

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Copyright ©2012 Matt Bergstrom