91-Year-Old Man Spends 56 Years Building His Own Cathedral Alone

Posted on Architecture 213

Former monk Justo Gallego Martinez has been constructing his own cathedral in Mejorada del Campo, Spain, since 1961. He had no prior knowledge of architecture and hadn’t laid a brick in his life, yet his project currently stands 131ft tall, and acts as a wonderful reminder that faith overcomes everything.

After working as a farmer, deeply religious Martinez joined the Trappist monks, however, after 8 years, he was forced to leave the order due to tuberculosis. During his illness, Martinez (also called Don Justo by many) vowed he would build a chapel to Virgin Mary – to whom he prayed – if he survived the disease.

True to his words, Don Justo started his project when he got back his health. He continues to work on it more than 50 years later despite all the skepticism. Don Justo mainly uses recycled materials and excess items donated by local building companies. The Spanish monk constructed a series of huge domes, a crypt, many intricate staircases, he also set up stained glass windows and the cathedral became a complex structure, covering 24,000 square feet.

No permission has ever been granted for Don Justo’s Cathedral and the man didn’t draw any plans for the building. However, it has become a tourist attraction and authorities turn a blind eye to the project. “If I lived my life again, I’d build this cathedral again, only bigger,” Don Justo told the BBC.

More info: cathedraljusto.com | demilked (h/t: bbc)

Former monk Justo Gallego Martinez has been constructing his own cathedral in Mejorada del Campo, Spain, since 1961

Image credits: Visual_Show

He had no prior knowledge of architecture and hadn’t laid a brick in his life

Image credits: Denis Doyle

Everything began when Martinez got tuberculosis and was forced to leave the Trappist monks for the fear he might contaminate the others

Image credits: Gianfranco Tripodo

During his illness, Martinez (also called Don Justo by many) vowed he would build a chapel to Virgin Mary – to whom he prayed – if he survived the disease

Image credits: Susana Giron

True to his words, Don Justo started his project when he got back his health

Image credits: Susana Giron

Little by little, the building kept growing

There were never any construction plans or official government permission

Image credits: Denis Doyle

After spending his family’s inheritance

Image credits: Frank O. Sotomayor

Don Justo has been mainly using recycled materials and excess items donated by local building companies

Image credits: Frank O. Sotomayor

For example, the capitals of some of the church’s concrete pillars are made from secondhand car tires

Image credits: Gianfranco Tripodo

And the 131ft-tall structure has been constructed without the use of any crane

Image credits: Gianfranco Tripodo

Don Justo, 91, has no regrets in life

Image credits: Frank O. Sotomayor

“If I lived my life again, I’d build this cathedral again,” he said

Image credits: Denis Doyle

“Only bigger”

Image credits: Gianfranco Tripodo

Watch the video version of Don Justo’s story below