Rudolph Grotto Gardens – Rudolph, Wisconsin - Atlas Obscura
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Rudolph, Wisconsin

Rudolph Grotto Gardens

Five acres of divinely inspired folk art. 

The Rudolph Grotto Gardens includes St. Jude’s Chapel and wild gardens, but the real draw are the Wonder Caves. They resemble catacombs and consist of 26 shrines and dioramas along a .2 mile tunnel. These caves were built not by nature, but by one Father Philip Wagner.

In 1912, early in his seminary career, he traveled to Lourdes, France to visit the grotto of Our Lady of Lourdes. He asked for a return to health so that he could make it through the ordination process. If this prayer was fulfilled, he would build another shrine to Our Lady.

Wagner’s prayer was answered—he became a priest, and was stationed in Rudolph, Wisconsin. Despite the fact that he didn’t know the first thing about construction, he began work on a new chapel, more central to the townspeople, and of course, the shrine he promised. Work continued until 1983, carried on by Father Wagner, his successors, and various inspired volunteers.

The shrines depict the Stations of the Cross and the Seven Sorrows of Mary, but there are also several secular displays of rural life. It is a simultaneously reverent and whimsical reflection of one mans spectacularly idiosyncratic vision. 

Know Before You Go

Has to be by car.