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  3. The Spaniard Who Spent 50 Years Building a Cathedral With His Own Hands

The Spaniard Who Spent 50 Years Building a Cathedral With His Own Hands

The Spaniard Who Spent 50 Years Building a Cathedral With His Own Hands
The Spaniard Who Spent 50 Years Building a Cathedral With His Own Hands , © Flickr user: santiago lopez-pastor, licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0
© Flickr user: santiago lopez-pastor, licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0

A huge cathedral with tall towers and a magnificent dome rises slowly in the municipality of Mejorada del Campo, 20 kilometers from Madrid. It seems like a common occurrence, but it is not. The building has been under construction for 50 years - brick by brick - by one man: Justo Gallego Martínez, farmer, ex-monk and a self-taught architect of 91 years of age.

Learn about his life's work (literally) after the break.

© Wikipedia user: JMPerez, licensed under Public Domain © Wikipedia user: Javier Carro, licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 © Flickr user: santiago lopez-pastor, licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0 © Flickr user: santiago lopez-pastor, licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0 +10

Without any previous knowledge of architecture or any experience in the construction industry, Martínez has spent five decades collecting garbage and leftover building materials to build the 50 x 25-meter surface structure with a 60-meter high tower.

© Wikipedia user: Dirección General de Turismo, licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0
© Wikipedia user: Dirección General de Turismo, licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0

After working as a farmer and bullfighter, Martínez spent eight years in a Trappist monastery - the Cistercian convent in Santa María de Huerta - which he was forced to abandon when he was struck by tuberculosis in 1961. In honor of the Virgin Mary, he began the construction of a chapel that he describes as his great act of faith. The former monk says that if it wasn't for his faith he would never have had the strength to try to build a cathedral.

© Flickr user: santiago lopez-pastor, licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0
© Flickr user: santiago lopez-pastor, licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0

Despite the skepticism of the inhabitants of the city, Don Justo - as the neighbors call him - has managed to progress the construction considerably without using even a crane, his only help was from some friendly workers. The process began without any kind of permission - because he was sure he would not get it - the plot of land is 4740 square meters inherited from his parents that today is worth more than one million euros.

© Flickr user: santiago lopez-pastor, licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0
© Flickr user: santiago lopez-pastor, licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0

The Cathedral

The large columns of the structure are made from empty oil drums, while the lining of one of the domes is made of discarded food tubes. The arches are tires from trucks and buses, the rest of the building consists of woods and bricks collected from other demolished works. He has received gifts such as iron doors and glass cutouts to close the openings. Its design inspiration comes from St. Peter's Basilica, with its huge central dome in sight, in addition to inspiration from European castles and churches. 

© Flickr user: gmalon, licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0
© Flickr user: gmalon, licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0

Some years ago Martínez told the BBC: "When I see what I have created, I am overwhelmed and I thank the Lord. If I could live my life again, I would like to build this same cathedral but twice as big, because, to me, this is an act of faith."

Los planos. Image © Richard Morley
Los planos. Image © Richard Morley

The church has never received permission to be build and although it may never be worshipable in it, the authorities have allowed it to go ahead as it has become a tourist attraction for the city. Recently, Martínez has received donations from German organizations and advertising sponsorship from the energy drink Aquarius, who paid him 40 thousand euros to tell his inspiring story, as well as organizing a campaign to raise funds through text messages.

The building has been exhibited at the Museum of Modern Art in New York and Justo Gallego Martínez has been interviewed by the world's largest television networks.

News ViaDaily Mail UK, BBC
Images Via: Flickr, users Guillermo MalonSantiago López-Pastor

Cite: Franco, José Tomás. "The Spaniard Who Spent 50 Years Building a Cathedral With His Own Hands " 14 Jan 2017. ArchDaily. (Trans. Pimenta, Amanda ) Accessed . <http://www.archdaily.com/802476/the-spaniard-who-spent-50-years-building-a-cathedral-with-his-own-hands/>
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© Flickr user: santiago lopez-pastor, licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0

用时50年 西班牙老人徒手建起了一座大教堂