Cape Breton’s Fortress of Louisbourg comes to life in Lego

The Fortress of Louisbourg has been celebrated in songs, books and paintings – and now recreated in all its glory as a Lego masterpiece.

Although not yet complete, the 24-foot-long model will contain approximately 200,000 plastic bricks when completed.

Bédard says that in the summer of 2024, his group plans to bring the replica to the Fortress of Louisbourg for public display. (Submitted by Jean Bédard)

The idea for the miniature came from project leader Jean Bédard, who visited the Cape Breton National Historic Site in 2008.

“Me and my brother went to the fortress for the 250th anniversary of the second siege of the fortress,” Bedard said. “It was just magical with all the British and French soldiers, the fortress itself and the fog.”

The current Fortress of Louisbourg is a recreation of an 18th century French fishing port and military base established during a time of war between France and Britain for colonial control in the New World. The fall of Louisbourg in 1758 marked the beginning of the end for French colonies in North America.

The federal government began rebuilding the historic site in the 1960s and it is now a major tourist attraction in Cape Breton.

Bédard said he started the replica project in January 2020 and soon after a team was put together.

The five people behind the project all contributed to cover its cost, estimated at around $20,000.

One of the last sections to be completed before the replica heads to a Lego convention in Chicago in 2023 is the King’s Bastion, a former keystone of French military power in what is now Canada. (Submitted by Jean Bédard)

In addition to Bédard and his brother Louis, the team is also made up of Francis St-Germain, Francis Bibeau and Étienne Beaudoin.

“We try to make it as similar to the real buildings as possible, but in other ways we have to keep it to a reasonable size,” Bédard said,

“We open a new block on the project and assign it to a member. So the member is responsible [for] build or rebuild… so it’s really easy to do split work and collaborate that way.

Bédard said the replica matches the scale of Lego minifigures that are spread throughout the scene.

Bédard says one of the hardest parts of the Louisbourg Lego model project is putting together the delicate roofs of the fortress buildings. (Submitted by Jean Bédard)

Much of the project has been completed so far, from its grand gangways and walkways to its bustling courtyards and shipping ports. What remains to be built, however, is what Bédard calls the masterpiece of the fortress – the Bastion du Roi – a keystone of French military might.

AJB Johnston, a historian who worked at the Fortress of Louisbourg for 23 years, said he was impressed with the precision and detail of the Lego creation.

Johnston wrote the book Louisbourg: past, present and future and believes the Lego replica could spark more interest in the history of Louisbourg and its battles between the French and the British.

“It’s an endless pit, or an endless treasure,” he said. “Louisbourg can fascinate you in countless ways.”

When complete, the Louisbrick project is expected to cost around $20,000. (Submitted by Jean Bédard)

Once complete, the “Louisbrick” project will be showcased at the 2023 Lego convention known as Brickworld Chicago.

After its North American showcase, Bédard said the replica would be brought to the fortress for display in 2024.

And after that, the plastic parts of the structure will be separated so that the team can start creating something new.

The five-member team behind the Louisbrick project is shown from left to right, Francis St-Germain, Jean Bédard, Francis Bibeau, Louis Bédard and Étienne Beaudoin. (Submitted by Jean Bédard)