Rocco Buttliere, a LEGO architect from Chicago, created this 67,000-piece LEGO Vatican City State replica. CNS photo/Peter Finney Jr., Clarion Herald

Vatican in 67,000 pieces

  • September 22, 2021

We all know Rome wasn’t built in a day, but LEGO architect Rocco Buttliere had three months.

Working quietly in his Chicago-area home during the lull of the pandemic in 2020, Buttliere cobbled together 67,000 tiny, plastic LEGO pieces to create an improbably realistic 3D replica of Vatican City State. The 1:650 scale model is so faithful to the cobblestones shaded by Bernini’s colonnade that it even includes a tiny red tile marking the top-floor window of the Apostolic Palace from which Pope Francis recites the Angelus each Sunday.

For a kid who began playing with his two older brothers’ LEGO sets as child and who even brought his LEGOs to college while pursuing a degree in architecture, those 800 hours he spent were the cornerstones of one his greatest artistic achievements.

“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. “That level of spiritual resonance was something that really made me want to tackle the whole (city state).”

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