The Dickeyville Grotto, located on US 151 in Dickeyville, Wisconsin, was erected in the village of Dickeyville, Wisconsin, on Holy Ghost Parish grounds. The main grotto and related shrines are the works of Father Matthias Wernerus, a Catholic priest and pastor of the town parish from 1918 to 1931. His crowning realization, built from 1920 to 1930, is devoted to the pursuit and harmony of two great American loves: God and Country. Remarkably, these religious and patriotic shrines were constructed without an outline or draft.
These shrines are striking designs of stone, mortar, and vividly colored objects. Materials collected from all across the world include multicolored glass, bright gems, antique heirlooms of pottery, porcelain, stalagmites and stalactites, commemorative China, sea shells, starfish, and petrified sea urchins and fossils. Embedded within are a variety of corals, amber glass, agate, quartz and ores, such as copper, iron, and lead, fool’s gold, rock crystals, onyx, amethyst and coal, petrified wood and moss. Most of shells, stones, tiles, wood, glass, gems and geodes were donated by parishioners.
There are quite a few shrines in the handsome Grotto garden. Besides the main shrine, which houses the Grotto of the Blessed Virgin, there is a patriotic memorial, the sacramental temple of the Holy Eucharist, Grotto of the Blessed Virgin, Grotto of the Sacred Heart, Christ the King shrine, Fatima shrine, the Eucharistic Altar, the Holy Ghost Tree, and the Stations of the Cross. These structures surround the Holy Ghost Church. Visited by 40,000 to 60,000 travelers every year, Dickeyville Grotto stands at the crossroads of U.S. Highway 151 and Highway 35.
In 1920, Father Mathias Wernerus commenced his first undertaking in concrete and stone for the benefit of his parish. He took his duties as builder, supervisor, and caretaker of the Holy Ghost Parish seriously, putting up numerous shrines on church property. Wernerus is said to have viewed the shrines as his personal contribution to return his lost sheep to the flock. The memorials and grottoes, which comprise Dickeyville Grotto, were built from 1920 to 1930 (the site was renovated between 1995 and 1997). While most of the site’s components are religious in nature, the Patriotism Shrine includes depictions of Christopher Columbus, George Washington and Abraham Lincoln.
Dickeyville Grotto inspires visitors to broaden and explore their imaginations. Every corner and surface of the grotto is layered with gorgeous colors, glass-shard flowers, vividly patriotic and religious symbols, even quirky minutiae, such as ornamental perfume bottle stoppers. A visit to the Dickeyville Grotto is an enhancing experience that delights the eyes on innumerable levels. It is no wonder that it has served as inspiration for many other smaller folk and religious mosaic art constructions in Wisconsin and elsewhere.