Back in the summer, I passed the Dickeyville Grotto in Wisconsin but was unable to stop and I’ve been dying to return and check it out! Finally I got there on a snowy weekend and it’s pretty awesome!
The Grotto is a series of shrines built by Father Matthias Wernerus, a German immigrant Catholic Priest, between 1925-1931. He built them as a dedication to his love of God and his love of America. From the road, you can only see the main Shrine, which is a large Grotto, the others are all set in the gardens behind it. My favourite Shrine was the Patriotic Shrine which features Christopher Columbus, some of the American Presidents, a Bald Eagle and the Liberty Bell (top image below).
Each Shrine is made out of stone and covered in a mosaic/collage style with various colourful objects such as: shells, coral, starfish, coloured glass, gem stones and copper. I’d imagine with every visit you’d be able to spot a different material or a different picture! Even the little fences that outline the gardens are covered with coloured stones. A lot of the materials were imported from Europe. To build the same thing nowadays would be nearly impossible with the customs laws, especially with the sheer volume that would be needed to construct something of this size!
So where does Henry Ford come into this? I’m sure everyone knows, Henry Ford was the founder of the Ford Motor Company. He donated hundreds of little round wooden balls that were used as gear stick toppers in old fashioned cars, which can be seen on some of the Shrines (bottom left image: around the IHS)!
There’s also a gift shop which has a wide range of products. Even on a Sunday in December the shop was open and a lovely lady told us all about the history and showed us pictures, books and newspaper clippings all about the Grotto.
The Grotto is free to visit but it is recommended that a donation of $1-$2 dollars is given to help with the upkeep and to look after the grounds.
Iowa has its own slightly older and larger Grotto called ‘The Grotto of Redemption’ located in West Bend. This too was built by a German immigrant Priest and is built in a similar style to the Dickeyville Grotto.
Have you ever visited one of the Midwest Grottos? I’d love to return in the summer or on a sunny day, I reckon the light would make all the colours stand out really nicely!