The Greatest Art Environment of 2022: DICKEYVILLE GROTTO

FATHER MATTHIAS WERNERUS The Dickeyville Grotto (1925-1930) // Stone, mortar, and bright color eked objects collected from all over the world: including but not limited to colored glass, gems, antique heirlooms of pottery or porcelain, stalagmites and stalactites, sea shells of all kinds, starfish, petrified sea urchins and fossils, a variety of corals plus amber glass, agate, quartz, ores such as iron, copper, lead, fools gold, rock crystals, onyx, amethyst and coal as well as petrified wood and moss.

I’ve seen my fair share of Midwestern religious grottoes. I started in West Bend, Iowa to see the Grotto of Redemption. I traveled to Cedar Rapids and West Burlington to see Our Mother of Sorrows Grotto and Our Lady of Grace respectively. All gorgeous, all hard to fathom, and wonderful in their own right. With every photo, every video, every person kept saying one thing, “you have to go to Dickeyville.”

The drive was not an easy one, but if planned just right, it was doable. It wasn’t on the top of my to-do list, but it should now be on the top of yours. Everyone was right, the Dickeyville Grotto in Dickeyville Wisconsin is well worth the time to travel to the town of 1,000 just a few hours from Madison or Milwaukee.

Not only did Father Matthias Wernerus, a Catholic Priest, Pastor of the Holy Ghost Parish in Dickeyville Wisconsin construct the main grotto from 1925-1930, the entire grounds including a cemetery is home to numerous shrines with more and more stone, gems, antiques, petrified wood and more.

The Main Grotto was last shrine completed by Father Wernerus and contains within it the shrine of the Blessed Virgin. On either side of the main grotto is a pillar fashioned of Rose Quartz from South Dakota, one crowned with an American Flag and the other with the Papal Flag; Patriotism and Religion. On the face of the arch of the Grotto, inlaid in stone, are the fifteen decades of the Rosary, the official prayer of the Mother of God. The statue is made of Italian White Carrara Marble and was sculptured in Europe. On the face of this little altar there is inlaid a very small cross with was made by the first Indian Convert Father Marquette, the missionary priest who discovered the Mississippi River. The walls of the interior are inlaid with precious stones from all over the world, along with beautiful shells and rare corals.


There are several shrines in the Grotto garden. Besides the main shrine (which houses the Grotto of the Blessed Virgin), there is a patriotic shrine, the sacramental shrine of the Holy Eucharist, the Sacred Heart shrine, Christ the King shrine, Fatima shrine, and the Stations of the Cross. These shrines are located in a beautiful floral garden area surrounding the Holy Ghost Church.


If you get a chance, whatever your religious beliefs or spirituality, the Dickeyville Grotto and many more grottoes across the Midwest are well worth your time. The ingenuity, the commitment, and beauty are inspirational and will leave you wanting to know more, do more, and see more.

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Published by marv

An artist/curator of outsider art and folk artwork, specializing in the marketing, buying and selling, promoting, educating, and storytelling of non-conforming artists.

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