Everything is awesome about DIY Lego model of Vatican 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
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The science museum in Philadelphia was already hosting a blockbuster exhibit of Lego sculptures and preparing to unveil a huge display of Holy See treasures for the Pope's visit when administrators got a serendipitous inquiry.
 
Would they like to see a model of the Vatican that a priest built entirely of Legos?
 
"It's amazing," said Larry Dubinski, president and CEO of The Franklin Institute, where the plastic brick structure is on view in downtown Philadelphia. "People are in awe."
 
The Rev. Bob Simon spent about 10 months constructing a mini St. Peter's Basilica out of a half-million Legos. His architectural feat includes a Lego Pope on a balcony overlooking the crowd in St. Peter's Square, which itself is made up of about 44,000 Lego pieces resembling cobblestones.
 
A colorful cast of Lego characters populates the piazza, including a nun with a selfie stick and a bespectacled figurine of Simon. All told, the display measures 14 feet by 6 feet and 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 crude, 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, about 100 miles north of Philadelphia. He's 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. Although he looked for hints by watching YouTube videos, "I hardly understood what I was watching."
 
"I'm also not really great at math, so I was daunted by that as well," he said.
 
Yet he persevered. Using Lego life preservers to replicate the dome's windows - one of many ways he repurposed various shapes - he delicately built the structure without glue.
 
Denise Brownell, visiting the museum, was duly impressed.
 
"It's just such a perfect replica of the real thing," said Brownell. "It's just awesome."
 
Simon started the project a year ago in an empty room in his rectory and he finished in time to bring it to BrickFair, a Lego convention held over the summer near Washington, where it received many accolades. A friend then suggested The Franklin Institute might be interested.
 
Simon's creation is being displayed alongside "The Art of the Brick," an exhibit of Lego sculptures, and "Vatican Splendors.'"  The latter includes art, vestments and religious relics from the Holy See.
 
There are no plans for the Pope to see the Lego Vatican while he's 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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COMMENTS (57)
  • trentb-lam
    9/23/2015 - 10:54 a.m.

    That is really cool. I can't fathom how he made cylinder pillars out of square bricks. I really hope Pope Francis goes and sees it, I sure he would be flattered.

  • mckennas-pla
    9/23/2015 - 10:19 p.m.

    My summary of the article: Rev. Bob Smith built a model of the Vatican out of 100 pounds of legos. He based it off of a book cover and the model now stands at 14 feet by 6 feet. The structure was built with no glue and took about a year to make, meaning it was ready for a lego convention. It is now displayed in a science museum in Philadelphia.
    My opinions on the article: I think that it is amazing that this pastor that is not that good at math can do something this amazing. Also, I feel like it is incredible that he could build such a big structure out of legos without glue, meaning it could fall apart easier. My question would be how did he move the structure from building to building without it falling apart.

  • caston,samuel-cas
    9/24/2015 - 08:14 a.m.

    1. Math was a part of the challenge in building the Lego model, as he was making a scale model of St. Peter's Basilica, and to do it justice, it would have had to been proportional. From making the building symmetrical, to making sure all of the parts were on the same scale would've taken some math to figure it out.

    2. I enjoyed the article, as it shows the crazy stuff you can do with plastic Lego bricks. The talented people who are able to do projects like these really show how disciplined they are, as it takes a lot of patience, and a good understanding of what you're building to be even remotely decent at building large scale Lego projects. The fact that Simon was able to make very round domes out of Lego by itself is impressive.

  • miral-6-bar
    9/24/2015 - 04:45 p.m.

    Math was part of the challenge because you need to count and figure out how to assemble it as if it was a real building.

    I think this is really really amazing because off all of the time and effort that a member of the clergy spent on this.

  • gallemore,shawn-cas
    9/25/2015 - 08:17 a.m.

    1. The math was part of the challenge in building a Lego model because you would have to make sure all of your parts were at the same scale.

    2. This article was pretty cool how The science museum in Philadelphia was already hosting a blockbuster exhibit of Lego sculptures and preparing to unveil a huge display of Holy See treasures. That's what got me reading this article in the first place.

  • raymondw-day
    10/01/2015 - 09:17 a.m.

    The Science Museum in Philadelphia put together a beautiful Lego display of the Vatican just for the Pope's arrival. The display meaures 14 feet by 6 feet and weighs about 100 pounds. Reverand Bob Simon spent about ten months constructing the masterpiece. After it was all said and one it took them half-million Legos.

  • maddyc-Orv
    10/01/2015 - 02:34 p.m.

    The replica of the Vatican is AMAZING. Every single Lego brick used to create the piazza (mostly 1x1 flat circular tiles) had to be attached one by one. Again, it amazes me.
    Math was part of the challenge because if you want the sizing of the building to be correct, then you need to use ratios to figure out sizes of walls, floors, windows, etc.

  • roberth1-mcc
    10/05/2015 - 09:49 a.m.

    The math part was challenging because everything had to be so perfect and he had to make it like he was building a real building. Making it out of Lego's probably made it even harder. On top of all of that, Simon wasn't very good at math.

  • leop-mcc
    10/05/2015 - 09:49 a.m.

    Math was part of the challenge in building the Lego model because he wasn't very good at math. He wanted this to look as similar to the real Basilica as possible and he needed to use square bricks to make things like the dome (which is round).

  • taylorn-mcc
    10/05/2015 - 09:49 a.m.

    Math was a challenge in building the Lego model because Simon needed to use math to make a smaller replica of St. Peter's Square. Simon was also not the best at math, so that made some things more challenging for him.

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