The work of a self-taught artisan, the Dickeyville Grotto is a collection of concrete sculptures, structures and shrines dedicated to God and patriotism.
The Dickeyville Grotto and Shrines was built on the grounds of the Holy Ghost Parish in Dickeyville, Wisconsin. (Dickeyville is located in far southwestern Wisconsin, about 10 miles north of Dubuque, Iowa.) Father Matthias Wernerus was the parish priest from 1918 to 1931, and Father Matthias built, with aid from parishioners, the entire shrine between 1925-1930. (Father Matthias contracted pneumonia and died in 1931. He is buried in the Holy Ghost Cemetery. The cemetery is the location of his first structure, the Eucharist Altar.)
His entire project is dedicated to both Christianity and American Patriotism. It is built of stone, mortar, and materials collected from all over the world. The diverse collection includes brightly colored glass, fossils, sea shells, pottery, porcelain, gems, corals, starfish, amber glass, agate, quartz, iron and copper ore, lead (Dickeyville is located in lead mining country, remember) fool's gold, rock crystals, onyx, amethyst, petrified wood, coal and even moss. It was reported that Henry Ford sent a box of unused gear shift knobs.
Father Matthias worked from his heart and from his mind, there was no master plan. In fact, there were no blueprints or plans at all.
Father Mathias at work in the grotto.
There are several shrines in the grotto, the main shrine houses the Grotto of the Blessed Virgin, other shines include the Holy Eucharist, the Sacred Heart shrine, a patriotic shrine, Christ the King Shrine with shrines to The Disciples, Fatima Shrine and the Stations of the Cross.
Although not on the NRHP, the Dickeyville Grotto is known world wide and attracts thousands of visitors each year. It is an amazing site to behold, a marvel of artistic creativity and to the dedication of Father Matthias to his beliefs in God and Country.