Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Great and tiny mosque

Islam has been a growing presence in the Netherlands, and now 6% of the Dutch are Muslims. This is largely due to immigration from Turkey, Morocco and other nations, and to some extent differential birth rates, though this effect may be exaggerated in the popular press. The bulk of the Dutch Muslims live in the four major cities, including Utrecht, where a new Ulu Mosque is being built (as far as I can tell, that translates to "great mosque" or "national mosque"). Dutch LEGO builder Eti has built a micro version of this mosque to include as part of a whole microscale layout built by a group of Dutch AFOLs.

Thursday, September 24, 2009


King Haraldr ordered this monument made in memory of Gormr, his father, and in memory of Þyrvé, his mother; that Haraldr who won for himself all of Denmark and Norway and made the Danes Christian

So reads the inscription on a runestone marking the baptism of the tenth-century Danish King Harald Bluetooth into this new religion. On another side of the stone is Denmark's oldest picture of Jesus. This is a typical example of a runestone. These large stones were erected throughout Scandinavia from the fourth to the twelth centuries to note significant events, honor the dead or commemorate the construction of a new building or bridge. These can also have religious notation, such as King Harald's cited above. In some areas, the majority of runestones have Christian prayers or crosses, helping document the spread of Christianity in northern Europe. There are also many references to earlier Norse beliefs - references to Odin, depictions of stories involving Thor and other gods and often encircled by a picture of the Midgard Serpent. In this scene by Swedish LEGO fan Etzel we see men erecting a runestone to note the building of a new bridge.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Happy Eid ul-Fitr

In Islam, Eid ul-Fitr marks the end of the month-long observance of Ramadan. Ramadan marks the month in which Muhammad received the Qur'an, and Muslims practice fasting, prayers and reading of the Qur'an during this time. Eid ul-Fitr roughly translates as "festivity of breaking the fast" - a time of celebration and feasting. Last week Turkish LEGO builder legoadam built this Mahmudiye Camii Mosque to mark the holy month of Ramadan.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Cretan chapel

Barbara Werth, aka McBricker, has created this lovely Orthodox chapel from the isle of Crete. Since many of my US readers might be less familiar with the Orthodox Church, a quick digression. Five centuries before the Protestant Reformation, an earlier schism divided the Christian Church into eastern (Orthodox) and western (Roman Catholic) halves. The occasion of this division was a theological dispute over a phrase added to the Nicene Creed - "and the Son" (or "filioque" in Latin). The eastern church held that the third person of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit, proceeded from the Father, while the western church held that the Spirit came from the Father and the Son. While this may seem like a very fine point to us today, and probably something most modern Christians never consider, it was also tied up with questions of the authority of the Bishop of Rome (the Pope), disputes over political control and cultural differences. To a complete outsider, the Orthodox may be seen as "priests with funny hats" in that their clergy wear traditional dress. Their religious practices are similar to pre-Vatican II Catholicism. The churches tend to be divided up along national lines, so there is a Greek Orthodox church, a Russian Orthodox church and so on. (Please forgive my vastly oversimplified statements here as an outsider.)

Barbara's chapel gets a lot of details of this chapel down. Since she places this "between Rethymno and Irakleo" it's somewhere on the northern coast of Crete - so the cliff is facing north, and therefore the chapel is facing east, as is traditional. Also note the iconostasis, or icon-covered screen at the front (apparently this church is dedicated to Saint Potter :) ), the candles and the bell. As a LEGO builder I also really appreciate the curved roof, the tiny goats up above to give forced perspective and the mountain in the distance built in as a mosaic.

On a blog-centric aside, note that I've split the "architecture" tag into two - real and fictional. Real is for those LEGO creations that recreate specific buildings from the real world, such as the Cathedral of Notre Dame. Fictional is for those buildings out of the builder's imagination, even if it might be based, for instance, on a typical gothic cathedral style. I was actually unsure in this case, as does give a fairly specific locale for this chapel, but she doesn't single it out as one specific church.

Sunday, September 13, 2009


Just a quick note - I've added tags to the posts and a tag cloud and search function over on the sidebar to make it easier to navigate my blog. The sidebar has also been rearranged a bit - the top box is about this blog and the bottom box is links to the wider LEGO fan community.

World holidays

Several years ago, Anne Schubert created a display for the school where she taught. The theme was holidays around the world to promote understanding of different religions and cultures.

Here we see three different holidays from three different religions. Perhaps my favorite was from Spain, with a depiction of Epiphany.

I love how this blog has me learning new things. Ati-Atihan arose in the Phillipines in the thirteenth century as two cultures came into contact. This January festival mixed Islamic and Animist traditions. Later, Spanish missionaries influenced the festival to shift into a celebration of the Christ child.

Humorously, Anne's source material suggested consumerism as the religion of the United States.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Simplicius Simplicissimus

In the years following the Protestant Reformation, conflict spread through Europe. Between 1618 and 1648, Germany was devastated by the Thirty Years War between Protestant and Catholic groups. The Peace of Augsburg in 1555 had sought to provide a compromise between Lutherans and Catholics and bring peace to the Holy Roman Empire. Add to that the rise of Calvinist groups, and also other nations seeking to take advantage of conflicts for their own territorial gain, and you get the Thirty Years War, which devastated parts of Germany between 1618 and 1648. The 1668 German novel Der abenteuerliche Simplicissimus Teutsch, or Simplicius Simplicissimus, is set against the background of this war.

German LEGO fan Johannes Koehler recreated the novel's cover in LEGO form.

According to Jojo:
The figure is a Pan or Satyr. Satyrs symbolise the "theater", as they gave the name for the "satire", a burlesque that was played during the intermission in a dramatic play. Often the Devil is personated after this image (horns, horse foot, wings). So this figure was a symbol for the evil in the "world theater" (30 years of war) as well as for the humourours form of the novel.

One of his long-term LEGO goals is to create further illustrations from this novel. I've included this on this blog both because of the religious conflict that underlies the novel and also for the way the satyr got transformed over time into an image of Satan.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Nauvoo Temple

Yesterday I mentioned the Nauvoo Temple. I went looking online to find who built the larger model you can see the edge of in yesterday's post, and I found this much smaller version. The creator of this MOC (My Own Creation - any original LEGO design) has made three kits for sale on CraigsList.

He has several suggestions for their use:
*Build it as a family and discuss its history, its importance, your feelings, why we build temples. You can put it together in less than 30 min.
*Use it as a reminder to attend. Each time you go build one step. Over the weeks see your progress.
*Start 15 weeks before a family member goes for the 1st time and build a step each week.
*Parents can use in church as a quiet activity.
*Build it and display it.
*Use as a cake decoration.

I certainly appreciate using LEGO to connect kids with their religious heritage (I've previously blogged a similar idea for Jewish kids), and I also appreciate the enterprising nature of the original builder. As a LEGO builder I like how he did the triple archway in the front - good parts usage there.

The Nauvoo Temple itself was the second Temple built by Joseph Smith and his followers after they left Kirtland. It was destroyed by fire and tornado later after they moved from Illinois, but the modern LDS Church has built a replica on the site of the original.

Thursday, September 10, 2009


BrickFair is an annual gathering of LEGO fans near Washington, DC, which happened a couple of weeks ago. In addition to making friends and having a good time, one of the highlights is a huge public display, with all kinds of LEGO creations by these different builders. In looking through photos of this display I saw this collection of religiously-themed creations. I actually used to live in the DC area, so I immediately recognized the small-scale model of the Mormon Temple, as I used to drive past it daily on the 495. You can also see a nativity set, a scene from the Garden of Eden, a Christmas creation, and the edge of another Mormon structure, the Nauvoo Temple. I don't know who built each of these, so if anyone who was at BrickFair could leave comments filling in the details I would appreciate it.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Agostino Novello

Welcome once again to any new readers who may have found me via the New York Times article.

Matteo Di Termini was born in the thirteenth century in Sicily. After being nearly killed in battle, he left his career in law and government and entered a monastery, taking on the name Agostino (later Agostino Novello). He rose to prominence in the Catholic Church and was widely known for his brilliance, his humility and his charity. He had a particular love for children and for the elderly, and after his death was associated with several miracles, often involving saving children. He was beatified by Pope Clement XIII. Italian LEGO builder Mautara illustrated three miracles attributed to Agostino: saving a child from a fall, saving a child from a wolf and saving a knight who fell in a ravine, all taken from this altarpiece by Simone Martini. Given that inspiration, I'm guessing we can expect one more miracle to be illustrated by Mautara.

Monday, September 7, 2009

GodBricks in the New York Times !!!!

Wow, GodBricks got mentioned in the New York Times! This blog was linked in the article Turning to Tie-Ins, Lego Thinks Beyond the Brick. Welcome to any new readers who may have found me via the link in their article. I've been on hiatus for the past month due to moving to a new state and preparing to teach in the fall term, but rest assured I will be back adding regular new content within the week. Check out my welcome post for a little about the thought behind this blog. Thanks to Andrew of the Brothers-Brick for the heads-up, and thank you to Nelson Schwartz, the NYT reporter, for noticing my little effort.