A Visit to the Wegner Grotto

When Paul and Matilda Wegner emigrated from Germany in 1885, I doubt they envisioned their retirement years building what would later become the Wegner Grotto. It all started in 1929 after Paul retired from owning and operating a Ford garage. Neither Paul nor Matilda had any formal training in the arts, but they definitely had a vision. Their “grassroots art” started on their small farm outside of Cataract, Wisconsin. They were no longer living on the farm full-time, but spent summers there. They began by building a fence around the property. Concrete pillars decorated with thousands of shards of broken glass…

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Little by little, special pieces were added, a prayer garden…

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A birdhouse and other decorations…

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I was bummed the skies were threatening to drench us as we walked along marveling at the artistry. I can only imagine how brilliantly the shards must glint in the bright sunshine. Glass flowers adorn the top of a pillar…

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The grotto began to take on a life of its own. Perhaps the crowning achievement, is the glass church. Paul wanted to represent all “mainline denominations”. And did so in stunning fashion…
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And a peace monument…

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Later he built a replica of their 50th wedding anniversary cake…

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And the very symbol of the country he loved…

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Paul died in 1937 and is buried at a little cemetery just up the road from the grotto. His gravestone, as well as Matilda’s, are a tribute to the beauty he created…

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Other family members’ graves are also decorated with glass shards…

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I wondered where they were able to find so much broken glass. I doubt colored glass was an inexpensive item to own in the early 1930’s. Some of it appeared to be carnival glass, shiny and still lovely, though only a shard…

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Have you ever been moved by “grassroots art”?

10 thoughts on “A Visit to the Wegner Grotto”

    1. Thank you Dawn, I know he finished working on the grotto in 1936, but I didn’t see anything that spoke to how long each piece took. Some of the larger pieces he worked on at his winter home and assembled at the farm.


  1. What an interesting place! I have seen a couple of similar places (similar in the sense that the artists felt called by God to build or make art). One was the world’s largest treehouse in Crossville, Tennessee (sadly now closed to the public because of course it doesn’t meet code). The other was Howard Finster’s Paradise Gardens in Summerville, Georgia. My visits to each of these places were some of the best days of my life. These folk artists were incredibly talented. No matter what one may think of the “calling” to build their visions, I’m glad such places exist to be shared with the world. They really are special.

    Liked by 1 person

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