The Dickyville Grotto


The Holy Ghost Catholic Church seen through The Dickeyville Grotto
The Holy Ghost Catholic Church seen through The Dickeyville Grotto


The Dickeyville Grotto is a must-see roadside attraction in America for anyone who loves craft and admires detail. You'll find the grotto on the grounds of Holy Ghost Catholic Church in Dickeyville WI. A five minute diversion off the freeway (Highways 151, 61, and 35) between Platteville and Dubuque, the Grotto welcomes travelers to the Southern end of The Great River Road in Wisconsin.

In the early 1900's a priest and pastor, Father Matthias Wernerus, set himself to the design and construction of mind-blowing mosaic encrusted structures. The themes of the grotto are love of God and love of country. Considered an archetype of outsider art, The Dickeyville Grotto has drawn interest and visitors from around the world for nearly a century. It is a place for both spiritual contemplation and artistic investigation.




The Patriotism Shrine at the Dickeyville Grotto
The Patriotism Shrine at the Dickeyville Grotto


The pilgrimage culture is a unique one, and interesting to observe.  There are several "holy sites" in Wisconsin that I have witnessed. Places of pilgrimage. Holy Hill Basilica in Hubertus is Wisconsin's largest and most visited shrine. You can wait in a line 200 people deep to have whatever item you like be officially blessed by a priest. I once saw a woman having her crockpot blessed. And, at Holy Hill it is common to have a tailgait picnic in the parking lot before Sunday services - an event that is ironically similar to the tailgait parties before Brewer Games at Miller Park.

It is precisely this sort of culture that Father Matthias feared would descend upon his grotto. He envisioned a future where ice cream cone wielding children posed for pictures next to an annimatronic likeness of himself and ran off to ride the carousel in the graveyard. For some of us, sadly this is not the case.

With construction now complete on the expansion of highway 151, hardly a soul takes the time to divert off at Dickeyville to see the Grotto. The quiet town of Dickeyville has lost its status as a highway town, as a landmark for car trippers on a scenic drive through God's country.

The whole of Southwest Wisconsin clamored for completion of a freeway from Madison to Dubuque. They got it, and rather than delivering industry and jobs it has stolen the slow pace that is essential to tourism. Where once the road to Dubuque meandered alongside streams in protected green valleys, where once travelers would stop for picnics in county parks and dangle their toes in cool spring waters, where once day trippers were forced to stop and shop in each small town along the way - now the freeway screams overhead with traffic hurdling as fast as possible to destinations far from here. They have little reason to stop and see what bounty of life and character Driftless Wisconsin has to offer. And, the freeway based industry that was promised never came. Moreover, wealth has been transferred out of the hidden valleys to the cities at the ends of the road. Rural expressways are simply arteries on which the resources extracted from the countryside are shipped away to the masses in sprawling urban centers. The flow does not happen in reverse.

So, today the Dickeyville Grotto is what Father Matthias intended it to be - a place for peace and contemplation for the local parishioners and townspeople. The glistening mosaics of found objects and precious stones trace the singular devotion of labor by a wholly devoted servant of God.

The iconic gestures and detailed representations found at the grotto are no less astonishing in artistic achievement than Michelangelo's mosaics installed in the halls of St. Peter's Basilica. Yet, these are compiled of broken dishes and stones set into globs of concrete. It is a simple message of piety and modesty - that beauty can be expressed by any child of god, from any far off place, with merely the materials on hand that the divine has provided. A message that life is what we make of it, and that place is where we are.

More photos, video, and directions below ...

The Patriotism Shrine at the Dickeyville Grotto
The Patriotism Shrine at the Dickeyville Grotto


Map and Directions




Address for your GPS: 320 Great River Rd Dickeyville, WI 53808
| coordinates: 42.627675, -90.594859 |

From Milwaukee2.5 Hours
From Madison1.5 Hours
From Green Bay3.5 Hours
From Wausau3.5 Hours
From Minneapolis4.5 Hous
From Chicago3 Hours


Photos



The Patriotism Shrine at the Dickeyville Grotto
The Patriotism Shrine at the Dickeyville Grotto


The Patriotism Shrine at the Dickeyville Grotto
The Patriotism Shrine at the Dickeyville Grotto


The Tree of Life at the Dickeyville Grotto
The Tree of Life at the Dickeyville Grotto

The Dickeyville Grotto
The Dickeyville Grotto

The Dickeyville Grotto
The Dickeyville Grotto


Video