DICKEYVILLE — The Platte Mound isn’t the only uncommon feature of Southwest Wisconsin.
About 10 miles to the southwest, near where U.S. 61 and U.S. 151 used to meet, sits Holy Ghost Catholic Church and school. That is also the site of the Dickeyville Grotto, one of the few roadside shrines in Wisconsin.
The Grotto was the work of Rev. Matthias Wernerus, Holy Ghost’s pastor from 1918 to his death in 1931. Between 1925 and 1930, Wernerus combined stones, glass and other brightly colored objects in mortar to create the Grotto. Construction was reported to take, according to the Grotto’s website, “six or seven truck loads of thirty tons each” of stone “from the Dakotas, from Iowa, and from nearby Wisconsin quarries.”
Wernerus wrote a booklet describing the Grotto in 1929.
“Visitors to the Grotto will find … the answer to the many and various questions with which they approach the busy builder,” he wrote. “Many reasons urged me to put up ‘Religion in stone and Patriotism in Stone.’
“The main reason why it was done I could not reveal. The last day will tell you more about that. I can only say that Almighty God and his Blessed Mother, in whose honor we worked, blessed us in such a way that ‘we built better than we knew.’ Thanks to His almost visible blessing from Heaven, we made the formerly unknown village the point of attraction for countless thousands of people.”
The Grotto is a shrine to both God and country. The main entrance features a stone version of the U.S. flag on one side and a stone model of the papal flag on the other. The Shrine of the Blessed Virgin was the last shrine Wernerus completed.