Legos replica helps to mark Heinz Chapel's 75th anniversary

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The University of Pittsburgh's Heinz Memorial Chapel, a prized community landmark that has stood in Oakland for most of a century, will be raffled away in a drawing next month.

Relax -- we're not talking about the real chapel.

The neo-Gothic stone structure whose spire stretches 253 feet above Pitt's Oakland campus is not changing hands.

What is being raffled off is a 261/2-inch-tall replica made out of Legos. The miniature version, built to help commemorate the real chapel's 75th anniversary, was unveiled Wednesday in a display inside the building in advance of Saturday's celebration.

Chances for the Dec. 20 drawing are being sold at $75 a ticket, but only to a maximum of 100 so those buying them feel they have a decent chance to win, said chapel director Patricia Gibbons.

Just the same, she is hoping people will donate to the chapel in other ways. The university provides day-to-day maintenance, she said, but the chapel is responsible for the costs of preservation projects.

"We have a building fund. We're hoping people will give money to that," Ms. Gibbons said. "We would like to get to a point where the building is endowed for the ongoing future, for the next 75 to 100 years."

The nondenominational chapel is the scene of about 200 weddings annually, as well as classes, concerts, lectures, memorial services, dance performances and other events totaling about 1,000 a year, university officials said. Part of the 1992 movie "Lorenzo's Oil" was filmed inside it.

Pitt officials said the building's first wedding took place in 1946.

Before his death in 1919, Henry John Heinz, founder of the H.J. Heinz Co., arranged in his will to give a "building" to the university honoring is mother, Anna Margaritta Heinz. His children subsequently added to what was earmarked for the gift and settled on a chapel. Ground was broken in 1933 and the chapel was dedicated on Nov. 20, 1938.

According to Pitt, the 73-foot transept windows designed and created by stained glass artist Charles Connick are some of the world's tallest.

"I've been with the chapel for 27 years." Ms. Gibbons said. "I love this building."

The creation by Lego artist Jason Burik is 181/2 inches by 24 inches by 261/2 inches, she said. Its colors, mostly gray and black, mirror the chapel's exterior, right down to its red doors.

The chapel's anniversary is being celebrated Saturday through events including a renewal of wedding vows by 196 married couples from as far away as California. Presiding will be Pennsylvania Supreme Court Justice Max Baer, a Pitt graduate

Ms. Gibbons said those wishing to donate to the chapel can go to its website, at, or call 412-624-4157. Checks can be mailed to Heinz Memorial Chapel, 1212 Cathedral of Learning, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, PA 15260.

Asked who she hopes will win the replica, she replied: "Just someone who is going to enjoy it."

Bill Schackner:, 412-263-1977 and on Twitter: @BschacknerPG.

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