About 13 miles east of Madrid, Spain in the small town of Mejorada del Campo stands a mostly constructed cathedral that attests to a former monk’s lifetime devotion to the Catholic faith, the Don Justo Cathedral.
The structure has been built by 95-year-old Justo Gallego Martínez, also known as Don Justo, using nothing but recycled, scavenged and donated materials, making the building a one-of-a kind masterpiece.
Justo was born in 1925 outside of Madrid. He became a monk, joining a local monastery at the age of 27. After eight years, Justo left the monastery in 1959 after being diagnosed with tuberculosis. He fully recovered, but when his mother died in 1963 and left him a large plot of land in the center of the town, Justo decided to not re-enter into the monastery, but instead would devote himself to Christ by building a cathedral to honor God. Without any construction experience, he decided to build his own cathedral from scratch and make a shrine to “Our Lady of the Pillar,” or Nuestra Señora del Pilar.
Incredibly, most of the building materials used to construct the cathedral have been scavenged or donated by local construction companies. Justo became very clever with the materials he’s had to work with, including columns made of concrete-filled plastic buckets or air ducts formed from coils of wire.
There are no formal plans for the building, as Justo builds as he is inspired, and the building has evolved over time. The cathedral still needs at least 10 years of work, years that Justo simply doesn’t have. But, his devotion to his life’s work keeps him occupied every day, except Sundays.
Although mostly working alone, he has been assisted by his six nephews and occasional volunteers. Today, the frame of a huge structure, with a 50-meter-tall dome modeled after St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome, towers over the town. What will happen to the building after Justo’s death remains in question. However, Justo has already built his own crypt in the cathedral and plans to be buried there. Justo and his incredible project is the subject of a 2009 short documentary, Catedral.
For more information or to help donate to the crowdfunding campaign to help Justo finish the cathedral, visit www.onemancathedral.com.