In this Friday, Sept. 11, 2015 photo, visitors view a Lego representation of the St. Peter’s basilica and square, at The Franklin Institute in Philadelphia. The Rev. Bob Simon spent about 10 months building it with approximately half-a-million Legos. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)
Everything is awesome about DIY Lego model of Vatican
September 22, 2015
The science museum in Philadelphia was already hosting a popular exhibit of Lego sculptures. It was preparing to show a huge display of Holy See treasures for the Pope's visit. That is when administrators got a request.
Would they like to see a model of the Vatican that a priest built entirely of Legos?
"It's amazing," said Larry Dubinski. He is president and CEO of The Franklin Institute. It is where the plastic brick structure is on view in downtown Philadelphia. "People are in awe."
The Rev. Bob Simon spent about 10 months building a mini St. Peter's Basilica. He built it out of a half-million Legos. His architectural feat includes a Lego Pope on a balcony. He is overlooking the crowd in St. Peter's Square. The square is made up of about 44,000 Lego pieces. They look like cobblestones.
A colorful cast of Lego characters is in the piazza. There is even a nun with a selfie stick. And a figurine of Simon wearing glasses. The display measures 14 feet by 6 feet. It weighs about 100 pounds.
"It was daunting," said Simon. "It was an exercise in patience. And I was thrilled with the way everything came out."
Simon said he built his first, rather rough, Lego model of the Roman Catholic church's headquarters when he was in seventh grade. Today, he serves as pastor at St. Catherine of Siena church in Moscow, Pennsylvania. It is about 100 miles north of Philadelphia. He has been to the real Vatican five times.
To create the model, Simon used an image from a book cover as a guide. The hardest part was creating the round basilica dome from square bricks, he said. He looked for hints by watching YouTube videos. But he said that, "I hardly understood what I was watching."
"I am also not really great at math. So I was daunted by that as well," he said.
Yet he stuck with it. Using Lego life preservers to replicate the dome's windows was one of many ways he reused various shapes. He carefully built the structure without glue.
Denise Brownell visited the museum. She was duly impressed.
"It is just such a perfect replica of the real thing," said Brownell. "It is just awesome."
Simon started the project a year ago. He worked in an empty room in his rectory. He finished in time to bring it to BrickFair. It is a Lego convention held over the summer near Washington. The structure got many praises. A friend then suggested The Franklin Institute might be interested.
Simon's creation is being displayed alongside "The Art of the Brick" and "Vatican Splendors." It is an exhibition of Lego sculptures. "Vatican Splendors" includes art, vestments and religious relics from the Holy See.
There are no plans for the Pope to see the Lego Vatican while he is in Philadelphia. But Simon hopes to see Francis. The priest will participate in the papal Mass on Sept. 27.
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CRITICAL THINKING QUESTION
Why was math part of the challenge in building the Lego model?
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