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Chicago architect models Vatican City from 67,000 LEGO bricks

J-P Mauro - published on 09/19/21

This is the world’s first contiguous LEGO landscape of an entire sovereign country.

An architect and LEGO enthusiast from Chicago is touring a spectacular LEGO model of Vatican City. The work is the world’s first contiguous LEGO landscape of an entire sovereign country. 

Vatican City may be one of the smallest city states in the world, but it has no shortage of minute details. LEGO artist Rocco Buttliere rose to the challenge and attended to each one, from St. Peter’s Dome to the tiny red tile that marks the papal window of the Apostolic Palace. The only thing missing is a miniature model of the pope speaking during his weekly Angelus.

The specifications

As Buttliere explained on his website, the model was created at a 1:650 ratio. It took about 500 hours of planning and an additional 300 hours of building to complete. The massive LEGO structure measures 52 inches by 68 inches and must be split into 13 sections to transport.

This project required 67,000 LEGO bricks to complete. Of these, some 1,300 are unique LEGO pieces that are not always easy to find. According to Catholic News Service, the dome of St. Peter’s was formed from the curving tails of blue dinosaurs, one of the only pieces he could find that would create the desired slope. 

Buttliere told CNS that he found inspiration for the project in the immense history contained in Vatican City. He said: 

“What inspired me was just the fact that there’s almost 4,000 years of human history represented in the architecture and the museums and the artifacts themselves,” said Buttliere, 26.

The process

For such an accurate model, one might think Buttliere had spent a lot of time at the Vatican. He has visited St. Peter’s Basilica, but he spent most of his time indoors. He explained that he primarily used Google Earth for reference, before creating the model with 3D software. This planning stage ensures there are no surprises once he begins assembly. 

While Buttliere is an architect in his own right, he has been able to make a full-time living off his LEGO skills. On his website his portfolio features some 80 models of everything from building replications to historical reimaginings. One of his biggest projects to date is a replica of 1st-century Jerusalem, a project that took 114,000 LEGO bricks and eight months to complete. 

Other works by Buttliere include a model of the Second Temple (circa 70 AD), the Santa Maria del Fiore (or Florence Cathedral), Mount Rushmore, and the Golden Gate Bridge. On his website, Buttliere provides historical information on each model to bring valuable context to his breathtaking works.

See more outstanding and enormous LEGO models at Rocco Buttliere’s website.

And check out the video below to see his recreation of Jerusalem in the 1st century.

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