Rev. Bob Simon knows a thing or two about answering a calling. Ten months ago, the Russia-based priest began building a near perfect replica of the Vatican out of over 500,000 individual LEGO pieces.
While constructing magnificent, miniature versions of real-world structures with LEGO has become a popular hobby for people across the world, Simon's attention to detail is the sort that could catch the attention of one globe-trekking leader of the Catholic faith who's currently on a world tour.
In order to accurately recreate the Vatican's numerous architectural adornments, Simon got creative in his hunt for building blocks. Piece by piece, Simon collected rare LEGO objects that weren't necessarily designed to be fashioned into the likeness of St. Peter's Square, the central public gathering space located in the heart of Vatican.
The Swiss Guards scattered throughout St. Peter's Basilica, Simon explained to the Times Tribune, proved to be a particular challenge given their unique costumes that required a certain, hard-to-find Shakespearean collar ruffle. As best as he could tell, there were only 14 of the pieces in existence, nine of which were owned by another LEGO hobbyist in Hungary.
“I was surprised at how you could pray with LEGOs,” Simon said. “It was really an exercise in mindfulness."
Simon likened his master building effort to other delicate manual tasks like thumbing rosaries that men of the cloth often use to pass the time while ruminating on life's greater mysteries.
Simon's LEGO Vatican is currently on display as a part of the Art of the Brick exhibit at the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia just in time for Pope Francis's pitstop in Philly on the weekend of September 26th.