Mazuchelli Pilgrimage, the Second

June, 2019

It had been almost eight years since our family last visited southwest Wisconsin. A work trip to Platteville, though, had us dusting off our pilgrimage shoes. Here are some pictures and stories from our second trip.

The Wegner Grotto County Park: A Grassroots Art Environment

We made a spontaneous stop on Hwy 71-27 between Cataract and Sparta, Wisconsin, after seeing a sign for this park. Glad we took the time to hunt it down.

This is an interesting sculpture park, inspired by the Dickeyville Grotto. It is not as impressive, but fun to stumble upon. A German couple, the Wegners, created it as a hobby until their deaths in 1937 (Paul) and 1942 (Matilda.) In 1986 the Kohler Foundation bought it, restored it, then donated it to Monroe County.

Unlike the Catholic nature of Dickeyville, this Grotto is more generic and random. Below is a picture of the Glass Church. It has sides dedicated to a number of different denominations. I am standing by the Catholic corner.

I also thought it was funny that there was a bird collection at Wegner Grotto, which even included one that was “commercially made.”  There is a bird collection at Dickeyville, too. Compare below.

Wegner Grotto birds

Dickeyville birds and ship

Wegner Grotto ship

I think it is pretty amazing that this couple was able to work together on such a significant joint hobby for so long. They even made themselves decorated grave markers in the cemetery down the road, which you can walk down and see. It isn't far.

There are actually a number of places in Wisconsin of the tourist genre “art environment” if that interests you. One day I hope to visit the grotto in Rudolph, WI, which is also considered an art environment. 

Wyalusing State Park

Where the Mississippi and Wisconsin Rivers converge you will find Wyalusing State Park. We paid our eight bucks and had a look around. Disclaimer: we are people who don’t do heights and complain about gnats, both of which were abundant at Wyalusing. We tried the .8 mile hike to Sand Cave (below,) which was scenic and somewhat challenging for us. Sand Cave actually reminded us of the Devil’s Punchbowl in Menomonie, which you should check out if you like this sort of thing. It doesn’t involve a hike, just a climb down a bunch of stairs.


Platteville made a very convenient home base for our Mazzuchelli pilgrimage. It is a nice sized town with places to eat and things to see. They have the World’s Largest “M.” Here is “the M” from a really long way away.

I find it interesting that if you were going to make the world’s largest something, that you would choose the letter M. Up close, it looks like a bunch of spray painted rocks but Sesame Street would still be proud.

visiting the letter "M"

We stayed in a new Holiday Inn Express which was physically attached in a most unusual way to the public library.

a very entertaining library

This was a lot of fun. If you had kids with you in the hotel you could easily entertain them at the library. Toward the end of our visit I noticed that the medical office that shared the other end of the hotel parking lot was a shiny new-looking reproductive health clinic. So maybe you want to make time for a few rosaries or a little family protest while you are there. Just kidding (?)

This hotel is also within walking distance of two Catholic churches. We were able to catch an early morning daily Latin Mass at St. Augustine on the UW Platteville campus. By the way, Newman there has just built a huge new building for housing Catholic students. They also have FOCUS missionaries . . . Hmmm. Might be a good place to send the kids.

Back to Benton

I very much wanted to see the inside of Mazzuchelli’s home on this visit. It is located next door to St. Patrick’s Church in Benton. On the last visit I was unable to find anyone to unlock the door. It is not regularly staffed.  I started calling ahead 2 - 3 days in advance of my visit. I was told to contact Sinsinawa Mound to coordinate this. The sisters there were really unable to help. What finally worked was that I left some messages for Father and he called “Joan” down the street and she did let me in. Joan was very nice and patient as we looked around although she was not a trained guide and labeling was sparce so we were usually unsure what we were looking at. Joan said there were plans later this summer to do some work on the place so I imagine labels and a bit more structure will follow. My advice to you is if you are not bringing a bus full of people and wanting a tour (in which case you should probably call Sinsinawa Mound far in advance), call the priest at St. Patrick's and leave a message. 

the museum

I took lots of pictures inside Mazzucheli’s house/museum but I have little idea of their significance. The park across the street from the church is where Mazzuchelli set up a convent of sisters who fed him his meals. That building is gone now but you might enjoy visiting the little park as part of your pilgrimage.

I think my favorite thing about being in that house is that you can be in the room where Father Mazzuchelli died (below.)

My son’s favorite thing was a period bedpan and “pot.” He had never seen such things before.

While it was hard to get into the museum, the church was, again, open and the grave was easily accessible. We spent some wonderful prayer time beneath my favorite crucifix, which is in the balcony area at the back of the church.

We also enjoyed spending time in the Our Lady of Sorrows chapel. My gopher friend from the previous pilgrimage was not there. I hope he died of peaceful old age or is happily relocated.

Quiz: Which of these graves, above, is that of Samuel Mazzuchelli? I find it so shocking that his is not the largest in the cemetery. His grave is at the left of this picture. He does get his own sidewalk path. That will help you locate it.

It was really tempting to go to New Diggings again when I saw this sign outside of St. Patrick’s Church but we did not, expecting that it would be pretty much the same (see previous pilgrimage.)

Instead, we headed toward Sinsinawa. I tried to find the metal dinosaurs (and UFO) by the side of the road to show my son this time and I FOUND them. You kind of risk life and limb to view this. You have to pull over onto the shoulder of a fast-moving 2-lane hwy and probably cross it. It is worth it though (assuming you don't get run over by a bus.)

Sinsinawa Mound

Sinsinawa Mound was not far from there. They were pretty busy having a “Wild Church” event at the time of our visit (best not to ask.) We found a card with a list of things to see at the center and their building location. There is a gift shop, the Mazzuchelli museum, an indoor and an outdoor labyrinth . . . and a reliquary? I didn’t remember seeing this on my previous visit. There wasn’t any kind of fancy marking or signs to find it but we poked around. It was in the walkway behind the big chapel across from the main entry.

Oh, my goodness! This was the highlight of our trip. We SO enjoyed praying with the saints in this little chapel. Were there 40 relics? They looked to be first class. And some of our favorite saints. Please do not miss this if you make pilgrimage to the area!

I had heard that labyrinths are designed somehow so that they take exactly the length of time of saying one rosary to walk. My son and I tested this hypothesis on the labyrinth in the basement and can report that it is false rumor. Or maybe that one is just broken. (Joke. Ha, ha.) It did have scarves placed around the edges for . . . breaking into liturgical dance? I can only speculate. But don’t get me started. I wonder what Mazzuchelli thinks about this.

Dickeyville, again

A Catholic “Art Environment.” 

But wait! Still more art environment. Behind the tourist information center back in Platteville there was a little garden by a small river and a shady, paved trail. It was more like an arboretum since many plants had signs telling you what the species was. This will give you a feel for the scenery there.

And, in closing, one final piece of arboretum art environment was found along the trail.