Rudolph, Wisconsin is a tiny town known for three big things: racing legend Dick Trickle, the legendary cheese shop Dairy State Cheese, and the rather impressive, bordering on legendary Rudolph Grotto Gardens & Wonder Cave.
The state features a number of grottos, but Rudolph Grotto is a landmark all its own. Covering 7.5 acres, it was designed to serve as a lasting memorial to Father Philip J. Wagner, who arrived in Rudolph in 1917. An Iowa native, Father Wagner had previously served in the Grotto at Lourdes, France and promised in 1912 to build a shrine to Our Lady if his prayers for better health were answered. They were, and true to his word, construction on the shrine began in Rudolph in 1927. The Lourdes Shine, as it was called, was first to be completed in 1928. The most recent project was finished in 1983.
In between – wow. You can explore everything from plaques containing the Ten Commandments to the Small Stone Church, built in 1940 to resemble the Castle on the Rhine. There’s Wisconsin In Miniature, Station of the Seven Sorrows of Mary, the Pillar Planter, the Last Supper Shrine (featuring hand-carved marble), Fourteen Stations of the Cross, and even a Sunken Garden with a Fish Pond and Waterfall, complete with a water wheel. There are 26 shrines in all, connected by trails, paths, and even a bridge or two. And there’s more.
The Wonder Cave totals nearly one-fifth of a mile through vernacular stone and features marble statues, illuminations and colors. Fashioned after the catacombs, Wonder Cave was constructed in stages from 1935 to 1957. The Wonder Cave does require an admission fee; everything else on the grounds is free and open to the public.
The Grotto’s gardens and cave are located behind St. Philip’s Parish, and you can visit the church, its reception center, and gift shop while there. The Gift Shop and Wonder Cave is open daily from 10am – 5pm, Memorial Day generally through the 2nd week of September.
Admission to the Grotto Gardens and the picnic area are free; the Wonder Cave is $2.50 for adults, $1.25 for teens, and 25 cents for children.
You’ll find Rudolph Grotto Gardens & Wonder Cave just east of Highway 13/34 in the Wood County village of Rudolph. Dairy State Cheese is about a mile to the south.
Rudolph Grotto Gardens & Wonder Cave Address:
6975 Grotto Avenue
Rudolph, WI 54475