Updated date:

Dickeyville Grotto in Wisconsin: A Unique, Religious Folk Art Attraction

I spent my early childhood in Wisconsin and another four years when my husband's job took him there. It is a beautiful and scenic state!

Sometimes when traveling, one comes across a unique attraction; that is exactly what my mother, my niece, and I experienced when traveling through Wisconsin and discovering the Dickeyville Grotto. It certainly fits the description of folk art and it is American inspired.

Dickeyville, Wisconsin is a small town in the southwest corner of the State. Were it not for the Dickeyville Grotto, most folks who do not live there or nearby would probably pass by without giving it a second thought. It would simply be another place on the map alongside the road that they were traversing.

The folk art of a priest changed all of that!

The ornate Dickeyville Grotto in Wisconsin

The ornate Dickeyville Grotto in Wisconsin

Were it not for the Roman Catholic Church of the Holy Ghost Parish located in Dickeyville, Wisconsin and the inspiration of the parish priest who resided there for a while, Dickeyville might still be overlooked by travelers in that part of the state.

After all, according to the 2000 census, there were only 1,043 residents living on less than a square mile of acreage.

But because of the artistic efforts of Father Matthias Wernerus, Dickeyville has now become an attraction for visitors to that small town.

Dickeyville Grotto

Dickeyville Grotto

Love of God and Love of Country

Religious symbols and patriotic symbols are intertwined in the unique folk art creation that came about due to the parish priest's inspiration and hard work of many years.

Several YouTube videos are included in this post. They share more of this clerical man's vision, both religious and patriotic. Viewing them also shows much more of the work accomplished by him than the few photos shown here.

It was with the cooperation and contributions from his parishioners and others that account for all of the assorted pieces collected and then assembled that this work of art came into being.

I would heartily suggest watching the videos below if this subject matter sparks any interest on your part.

Folk Art Supplies

Many things were embedded into the concrete, including the following:

  • Pottery
  • Glass
  • Gems
  • Seashells
  • Fossils
  • Corals
  • Petrified wood
  • Stalagmites and stalactites
  • Coal
  • Antiques...and more!

The tree of life depiction below contains petrified wood and other elements already mentioned.

Dickeyville Grotto

Dickeyville Grotto

Photo of my mother and niece at the Dickeyville Grotto

Photo of my mother and niece at the Dickeyville Grotto

My mother, my niece, and I were traveling between the States of Mississippi, Iowa, and Wisconsin visiting relatives and friends that particular year. Always on the lookout for special attractions along the way, we discovered the Dickeyville Grotto and stopped to take a look.

At the very least, it is surely an interesting collection of things artistically presented. It is very inspirational for some. That was surely the intent of its creator—Father Matthias Wernerus—who spent five years of his life creating this series of grottoes.

Dickeyville Grotto photo

Dickeyville Grotto photo

Father Wernerus

Originally a European who came to America to practice his priesthood, Father Wernerus was extremely patriotic. The small town of Dickeyville lost three of their sons in World War I. The three soldiers who had fought and died were memorialized by a monument in the church cemetery (pictured below).

As he progressed with his handiwork, Father Wernerus included things like the American Flag, the American Eagle, a memorial to Christopher Columbus, and the like.

Cemetery at this Dickeyville Grotto church

Cemetery at this Dickeyville Grotto church

Faith and Religious Symbols

Obviously, the main thrust of Father Matthias Wernerus' endeavors was to express his religious beliefs. Jesus Christ, the Cross, Mary (the mother of Jesus), and other religious symbols were featured in this mixture of bits of coral, glass, rocks, and other things set into concrete creating this unique and notable site in Dickeyville.

Succumbing to pneumonia one year after finishing his labor of love, Father Matthias Wernerus now resides in the cemetery along with many of his deceased parishioners adjacent to his Holy Ghost Parish Church. He would like that final resting spot, I am certain.

Gravesite of priest who created the Dickeyville Grotto

Gravesite of priest who created the Dickeyville Grotto

Location of Dickeyville, Grotto

You now know a bit about this unique Wisconsin attraction called the Dickeyville Grotto if you were previously unfamiliar.

I hope that you enjoyed these pictures, links, and videos.

© 2010 Peggy Woods

Comments are welcomed.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on April 25, 2016:

Hi Robert,

Had we not been passing nearby on the road we would have missed knowing about it also. Sometimes discoveries are happenstance. Glad you liked learning about the Dickeyville Grotto.

Robert Sacchi on April 21, 2016:

Thank you. This is one of those places people wouldn't know existed unless they read about it. Thank you for posting.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on December 11, 2013:

Hello ologsinquito,

Glad to be able to share this grotto with you via pictures that I took. It is even more amazing to see in person. Appreciate your comment.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on December 04, 2013:

Hi moonlake,

Glad that I could introduce you to a site in your state of Wisconsin that you have not yet visited.

ologsinquito from USA on November 30, 2013:

This priest must have had a great love of Our Lady. What a beautiful shrine, at least judging from the pictures. I'll make sure to go to Dickeysville if I ever travel to Wisconsin.

moonlake from America on November 29, 2013:

I don't think I have ever heard of this and I live in WI. Thanks for sharing will share with followers and voted up.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on October 15, 2010:

Hi earnestshub,

I laughed when I read your comment. "Bizarre and fascinating" certainly applies as it does to most folk art. It is also a treasure since so many of the town's residents added their items to it as well as the overall religious and patriotic significance of the grotto. Thanks for the comment.

earnestshub from Melbourne Australia on October 15, 2010:

Bizarre and fascinating slice of America.

I would like to see it and meet some locals too if I could.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on October 11, 2010:

Hi Shirley Pisa,

Thanks for visiting this hub about the Dickeyville Grotto in Wisconsin and leaving your comment.

Shirley Pisa on October 11, 2010:

I do agree. I could attract anyone who will see it.

Nice shot and do have a nice day to you :)

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on September 27, 2010:

Hello Ellimac Ymac,

Congratulations to your brother and his new married life. Depending on where they are going in Wisconsin while on their honeymoon, he will find much beauty in many places. Glad that you liked this Dickeyville Grotto hub. You should write about the one you loved as a child. Good idea for a hub?

Ellimac Ymac on September 26, 2010:

Excellent, timely post for me. My brother got married this weekend and they are leaving for Wisconsin on their honeymoon. I am forwarding this to him. We have a small grotto here we lived by and loved as children. I know he will include this in his plans. Thanks Peggy!

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on September 24, 2010:

Hi Cheryl,

The Dickeyville Grotto obviously means a lot to the local parishioners and others from that area in Wisconsin. Glad that you also found interest in this. Thanks for the comment.

Cheryl on September 24, 2010:

Thanks for sharing another interesting and well presented hub on Father Wernerus. A brilliant and great creator of art. Dickeyville Grotto appears to be a very serene and lovely place. I hope the Pope will visit this lovely and peaceful place in the near future. I enjoyed your presentation very much.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on September 24, 2010:

Hi Micky,

Glad that you liked the photos and information about the Dickeyville Grotto. Riding your bike you undoubtedly run across interesting sites on your travels and get to see them in a way that people zipping by in cars would not. Thanks for your generous comment.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on September 24, 2010:

Hi Dolores,

Feel free to link the Dickeyville Grotto hub to your mosaic hub. Will try and locate it so that I can add yours to this one. Thanks!

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on September 24, 2010:

Greetings Hello, hello,

The Dickeyville Grotto is a fascinating place to visit as well! Thanks for your interest.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on September 24, 2010:

Hi agusfanani,

From what I read the entire town got in to collecting things for the priest to embed into this Dickeyville Grotto. Bits of broken china, rocks, minerals, marbles...you name it and it is probably there! Thanks for the comment.

Micky Dee on September 24, 2010:

I tap-danced on your buttons Peggy. Great video. I love places like this- and you can see a few riding a bike or driving, but this is grand. Thanks as always!

Dolores Monet from East Coast, United States on September 24, 2010:

Peggy, this is so beautiful. I love those gigantic folk art mosaics - what an inspiration. Going to link this to my mosaic folk art hub if that's okay. (By the way, your niece looks so much like your mother!)

Hello, hello, from London, UK on September 24, 2010:

That was a fascinating hub to read. Thank you for sharing.

agusfanani from Indonesia on September 23, 2010:

A very interesting place. I didn't know this place before and I think the materials embedded in the Grotto make it very beautiful.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on September 23, 2010:

Hi Pamela,

The Dickeyville Grotto is certainly that! Interesting! Thanks for the comment and glad that you liked this hub.

Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on September 23, 2010:

This is a great hub and I loved the photos and information l. I think it would be a very interesting place to visit.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on September 23, 2010:

Hello Kaie Arwen,

Glad that I could introduce the Dickeyville Grotto to you. Thanks for your comment.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on September 23, 2010:

Hello WannaB Writer,

You may not have ever seen anything like the Dickeyville Grotto before...but you can't say that now because of hubpages. Haha! Happy to have been the one to have introduced you to this interesting attraction in Wisconsin. Thanks for the comment.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on September 23, 2010:

Hello Minnetonka Twin,

Not surprising that you missed seeing the Dickeyville Grotto in Wisconsin. Dickeyville is a very small town of which there are a good many in that State. The videos are good as you noted. Thanks for your interest and comment.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on September 23, 2010:

Hello SimoneSmith,

Odd and fascinating...I think that those descriptions aptly fit the Dickeyville Grotto. Many people also find beauty in it whether they are simply folk art lovers or those that find religious as well as patriotic symbolism in the total effect. Thanks for the comment.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on September 23, 2010:

Hi dahoglund,

I'll let you write about the grotto in Rudolph, Wisconsin since it would be a bit of a trip to see it from Texas. Haha! We saw the Dickeyville Grotto as we were passing the area but did not take time to eat. Thanks for the speedy comment from someone who has actually seen this Dickeyville Grotto.

Kaie Arwen on September 23, 2010:

Here........... I have never been! I am in awe! Thanks for this! Kaie

Barbara Radisavljevic from Templeton, CA on September 23, 2010:

I've never seen anything quite like this.Thaks for sharing it.

Linda Rogers from Minnesota on September 23, 2010:

Thank you for the great videos and great pictures of your family. I went to school in Wisconsin and have never heard of this place. Sounds really charming.

Simone Haruko Smith from San Francisco on September 23, 2010:

What an odd, fascinating place! Thanks for sharing the original photos- you've offered quite the amazing virtual tour!

Don A. Hoglund from Wisconsin Rapids on September 23, 2010:

This is the place I have been through and visited many times.There were a couple of fairly nice places to eat there. A pleasant town. There is also a grotto in Rudolph, Wisconsin.