Friday, July 31, 2009

Angel of the North

The Angel of the North stands 66 feet tall and has a wingspan of 178 feet. This sculpture was built by Antony Gormley in Gateshead, England, about 15 years ago. I did some searching around and found that this public art is used in religious education curriculum, teaching 5th and 6th graders about angels in art and in different religious traditions such as Christianity and Islam. Recently, LostCarPark built a LEGO rendition as part of a project in which he and other Brickish Association members (a UK AFOL group) made models of different British landmarks and then worked with schoolchildren to come up with their own creations (here are the other models).

Tuesday, July 28, 2009


There are tons of different church MOCs out there, some based on existing cathedrals and others simply from the builder's mind. This church by Jalkow was notable to me because of the statues. The two flanking the door are Mary, sister of Martha and Lazarus, holding a jar of perfume with which to annoint Jesus, and Jesus, holding the bread and cup at the Last Supper. Around the outside he has statues depicting "the Four Pilars of Society. The Almighty God, the Diligent Farmer, the Smart Senator and the Brave Knight."

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Notre Dame

I've previously noted a LEGO model of Notre Dame. Here's the real thing. A fun tradition with some AFOLs is to put LEGO figures into real-life settings. Here, Don Fenice took Indiana Jones on a trip around France, including such places as Notre Dame and Sacré Cœur.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009


Today a solar eclipse will be seen across large parts of India and China. Eclipses have had a long history history in relgion. Cultures that worshiped a sun god might see an eclipse as a particularly ominous occasion. Even today, some in India are concerned about ill omens associated with this day, as one of the gods of the Hindu pantheon, Surya, is a sun diety. In Hindu mythology, an eclipse occurs when two demons swallow the sun. Pregnant women should avoid going outdoors to protect their children, while others partake in ritual prayers and bathing.

Just to note other religious ties to eclipses, in one of the ten plagues described in Exodus, God causes darkness to fall across Egypt, and in the story of the crucifixion of Christ the sky turns black. Some have pointed to eclipses as natural explanations of these phenomena.

Here is a motorized LEGO Orrery built by George Moody and his son. An orrery is a model of the solar system or part of the solar system. Follow the link to see a movie on Moody's site showing the relative motions of the earth, sun and moon. In the picture above we see them in their relative positions for a solar eclipse.

I could, by the way, have used this same model to illustrate a different topic relevant to this blog. The Copernican revolution in understanding the solar system was very tied in to the whole science/religion debate. Perhaps I'll go into that in another blog post.

Monday, July 20, 2009

From the Earth to the Moon

I was trying to think of a way to tie in today's 40th anniversary of the moon landing, and I thought of the Apollo 8 mission. On Christmas Eve, 1968, the crew of Apollo 8 made a television broadcast from beyond the moon. They showed the dramatic first view of the Earth rising above the lunar surface and read from Genesis 1:

William Anders "We are now approaching lunar sunrise and, for all the people back on Earth, the crew of Apollo 8 has a message that we would like to send to you. In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters. And God said, Let there be light: and there was light. And God saw the light, that it was good: and God divided the light from the darkness.

Jim Lovell "And God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And the evening and the morning were the first day. And God said, Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters. And God made the firmament, and divided the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament: and it was so. And God called the firmament Heaven. And the evening and the morning were the second day.

Frank Borman "And God said, Let the waters under the heavens be gathered together unto one place, and let the dry land appear: and it was so. And God called the dry land Earth; and the gathering together of the waters called he Seas: and God saw that it was good. And from the crew of Apollo 8, we close with good night, good luck, a Merry Christmas – and God bless all of you, all of you on the good Earth."

I suspect this reading was, in part, a response to the reported statement by Yuri Gagarin that he didn't see God when he went up into space (according to Wikipedia there is no record of Gagarin actually saying that, but instead it came from a speech by Krushchev). Remember that theism vs atheism got tied up in cold war propaganda (e.g. "under god" was added to the US Pledge of Allegience in 1954, in part in opposition to "godless communists").

I'm sure I've seen a LEGO mosaic of that iconic image of the Earth rising over the lunar surface, but when I went looking for it I ran across Gary McIntyre's solar system ceiling.

This was built to order for the Jewkes Brothers Construction's million dollar house to be featured in the Utah Valley Parade of Homes. Okay, it's close enough to what I wanted, and is just an amazing MOC. If you look closely at the lunar surface you'll see an Apollo Lunar Lander, and then of course we see the whole solar system in the sky above.

Okay, there is no specific religious content in this LEGO creation, but I'd argue that contemplation of the heavens has always forced man to think beyond himself to ponder the eternal. "The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handywork," writes the Psalmist, and Dante portrays a trip through the solar system as an image of Heaven. On the other hand, Carl Sagan's contemplation on the pale blue dot led him to different conclusions.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Kirtland Temple

The Kirtland Temple (here recreated in LEGO by Arthur Gugick) was the first temple of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. This was built in Kirtland, Ohio, in the 1830's under the direction of Joseph Smith. Soon thereafter, though, economic problems and dissension in the church led Joseph Smith to move with his followers to Missouri and then Illinois. After Smith's death his followers moved to Utah, which is now the home of the LDS Church. Today the Kirtland Temple is operated by the Community of Christ, the descendants of an offshoot of Smith's original church, but members of all LDS traditions honor the church as an important historical landmark of their faith.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Our Lady of the Snows

The National Shrine of Our Lady of the Snows is an American Catholic retreat center near Saint Louis. Each year they have a huge Christmas display of lights for people to drive through, as well as other events. At least in some years this has included a LEGO display, including a life-size nativity scene and a (much smaller) town of Bethlehem. Given that that post was from 2003 and part of this was on display again in 2005, I'm assuming this has become an annual part of the display - I'd love to have this confirmed one way or the other.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Murder in the Cathedral

Thomas Becket was the Archbishop of Canterbury from 1162 until his death in 1170. He came into conflict with King Henry II of England over the rights of the church, and was assassinated by knights of the king. After his canonization, his tomb became a destination for pilgrims, such as those depicted in Chaucer's Canterbury Tales. Johannes Koehler (Jojo) created Canterbury Murder for a contest, winning first prize in the dioramas category.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Notre Dame

The Bramigk brothers are experts at LEGO cathedrals. I've previously noted Jürgen's colossal Cologne Cathedral. His brother Ingo has his own Cathedral de Notre Dame de Paris. Notre Dame was built between 1160 and 1345 in the heart of Paris and has been central to many historical events as well as works of art and literature.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Spirit war

As long as I'm posting on Tiger, I also wanted to point out his Spirit War. I'm not sure if there is any specific religious content here, but another AFOL from Taiwan notes that this story found its inspiration through the six realms of the Buddhist cosmology. I think it's an original work by Tiger, but would love to know more. I think you can easily see why Tiger is one of my favorite LEGO builders, even when I don't know the backstory behind the creations. His comic-book style of presentation is particularly striking. The six realms referred to are the different types of rebirth available in some forms of Buddhism - "rebirth as a deva, an asura, a human being, an animal, a hungry ghost, or a being in Naraka (hell)."source If someone wants to translate these comics into English, I'm sure I'm not the only one who would be really thankful.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Journey to the West

After reading up on the monkey king for yesterday's post, I realized that I'd seen this before. Another builder, known as Tiger, has a whole series of creations inspired by the Chinese Buddhist novel Journey to the West (both Tiger and EnigmaBadger came up with similar designs based on a custom hairpiece by AreaLight). Now I have to get a translation of this novel and read it to myself, but based on the Wikipedia plot summary I see the meaning behind several of these scenes, such as Sun Wukong's birth and discovery of the water curtain cave. Later on, Sun Wukong joins the monk Yuanzang on his journey to India, along with the half-man half-pig Zhu Bajie and the sand demon Sha Wujing.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Monkey King

The Chinese classic novel, Journey to the West (Xi You Ji), was written in the 1590's, based in part on legends of a Buddhist monk who traveled to India to retrieve certain religious texts. In addition to being an adventurous quest, the novel can be read as an extended allegory of the journey towards enlightenment. In the novel, the monk is accompanied by Sun Wukong, the monkey king, who acts as his bodyguard in penance for past crimes. In the end, for his service and loyalty, Sun Wukong achieves Buddhahood.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009


Portuguese builder Bacvs has started a project to illustrate the seven deadly sins. He's already built gluttony, vanity and envy.

Thanks to Luís for the heads-up.

Monday, July 6, 2009


As far as I can tell, the text underneath the figs in Ismah Mansurah's JunduLlah is from the Quran, Surah 61 verse 14: As said Jesus the son of Mary to the Disciples, "Who will be my helpers to (the work of) God?" Said the disciples, "We are God's helpers!" I have no idea what the rest of the text on that page is saying - the online Malay to English translators I found aren't really helping me. If someone here does read Malay, I'd appreciate you leaving a comment helping fill in the details here.