Artist Dates


Title of Work

Mathias Wernerus 1


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Date of Work

ca. 1976


Super 8 film

Identification #



Art & Design Study Collection: James Smith Pierce Film Collection



Additional Information

About Mathias Wernerus:

Mathias H. Wernerus was born in 1873 in Kettenis, Germany, now a part of Belgium. Wernerus immigrated to American and entered the St. Francis Seminary in Milwaukee in 1904. He was official ordained as a Catholic priest in 1907. Wernerus became the pastor of the Holy Ghost Church in Dickeyville, Wisconsin in 1918. Wernerus was inspired by the Grotto of Redemption in Iowa and engaged his parishioners to help transform the small church and its surrounding land into a similar grotto.

His first works, flower vases adorned in pieces of glass, were made for a cemetery memorial in 1920. Wernerus began work on the Grotto of the Holy Eucharist in 1924, a concrete shrine which he embellished with various materials such as shells, glass, and pieces of broken ceramics. Until 1930, Wernerus and his parishioners went on to decorate several more grottos and shrines. The church itself was decorated in a similar fashion and contained the a shrine to the virgin Mary inside, a depiction of the tree of life on one of the outer walls, and two embellished flags on either side of the building.

The church and surrounding shrines and grottos were officially dedicated on Sunday, September 14, 1930. Wernerus died of pneumonia the following year in 1931 and all further construction on the property stopped. The Holy Ghost Church and surrounding property are still open to the public for tours. The church maintains a devoted following which worship in a separate building erected in 1913 to house its growing numbers.


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Condition Notes

Digitally preserved 2021.


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