The beautiful rolling countryside near Spring Green, Wisconsin, is home to St. Anne’s Shrine, a serene hilltop chapel dedicated to the mother of the Virgin Mary.
Spring Green is a tourist center thanks to its association with Frank Lloyd Wright’s Taliesin and the American Players Theatre. Once you’re in Spring Green, travel seven miles north on Highway 23 to the small town of Plain. Head up the hill to the town’s large Roman Catholic Church, St. Luke’s, and then take off on foot through its cemetery and up the hill through the Stations of the Cross. Along the way you’ll have expansive views of the surrounding fields and hills. Near the top, the hill becomes thickly wooded, and a few yards later you’ll come to a sweet little stone chapel with a few pews inside. Just down the hill is a replica of the Grotto at Lourdes in France (though the day I visited the shrine was empty of the statues that I assume are usually there).
The shrine sits atop Council Bluff, which is believed to have been a meeting spot for Native American tribes before white settlers came to the area. The shrine itself is patterned after Holy Hill in the Wisconsin town of Hubertus. The idea for the shrine came from the Rev. Charles Surges, who served as pastor of St. Luke’s from 1918 to 1930. The largely German parish community supported the idea and ground was broken in 1923. The building of the shrine was a community affair, with nuns and students from the Catholic school hauling boards up the hill and gathering fields and rocks from the nearby countryside. The men, meanwhile, hitched teams of horses to transport them up the very steep hill.
The shrine is said to contain a relic of St. Anne and a particle of the True Cross, gathered when the Rev. Surges was on pilgrimage to the Holy Land. It was completed in 1928 and dedicated before a crowd of 1,000 parishioners.
St. Anne’s Shrine is located seven miles north of Spring Green, or about 50 miles west of Madison. St. Luke’s Catholic Church is at the corner of Nachreiner Avenue and Oak Street in Plain, Wisconsin. Admission is free (but be sure to close the gates behind you as you walk up the hill so the cows don’t get in). Processions to the chapel are usually held on July 26, which is the feast of St. Anne.