Paul and Matilda Wegner were German immigrants who settled in southwest Wisconsin in the 1880s. After many years of farming and running a car dealership, the Wegners retired to their summer property north of Sparta. In 1929 they made a visit to the Dickeyville Grotto, which was then attracting attention and nearly complete. That visit would change their lives, because it inspired them to build their own concrete grotto to attract visitors of their own.
Unlike church-sponsored grottoes, the grotto garden the Wegners made is not overtly religious. There is a small chapel, and a prayer garden, but there are also family monuments, animal sculptures and birdhouses that are simply playful concrete constructions without overt spiritual purpose. The Wegners seemed more concerned about creating a democratic and inspiring roadside attraction than the traditional meditative grotto of spiritual mystery. The space they created is a visual embodiment of their progressive political and religious ideals, from the Peace Monument to the American Legion plaque to the multi-denominational Glass Chapel.
The Wegner Grotto is located on State Highway 71 west of Cataract, WI.
References and Links to the Wegner Grotto
presented by Minnesota Museum of the Mississippi