December 13, 2008

Justo Gallego Martinez, Catedral/Cathedral

Justo Gallego Martinez
still (2009) from the Maria Heidemann video 
(see documentation) 

This is the story of a man who meanwhile for over some 55 years single-handedly is building a cathedral.

Life and works

Born in a family of farmers, Justo Gallego Martinez (1925) for a number of years was a monk, untill due to tubercolosis he had to quit the monastery. Eventually he recovered from this illness, which deepened his religious conviction.

The family owned a plot of land of 8000 m2 in Majorada del Campo, a community near Madrid. On this plot Gallego wanted to create a building as an expression of his gratitude and his deep faith. On october 12, 1961 he laid the foundation stone.

Without any training in architecture, building technique or brickwork and without any building permit or construction drawings, but with the concept of classical architecture of cathedrals in his mind, he single handedly began building an imposing cathedral.

The local authorities did not intervene. However, they are not convinced of the firmness of the construct, but experts do not venture to advise them about this.

From 1961 on the building got more and more volume and currently it is 50 m long, 25 m wide and 35 m high (164x82x115 ft). The towers are 70 m (230 ft) high.

File:Cathedral of Justo Gallego.JPG

A man of modest means, Gallego made up the construction by using all kinds of recuperated materials. For example, the towers were constructed by using old oil drums, filled up with concrete.

Some firms donate their obsolete and excess materials and volunteers will occasionally assist him.  The cathedral's dome, today still a steel grid in the open air, was realized and put in place with the help of family members. Since the late 1990's Gallego has a co-worker, Angel Lopez, who assists him every day.

The spanish catholic church keeps silent about Gallego's activities, which also goes for the officials of architecture and the artistic elite in Spain.

However, the creation attracts many (foreign) visitors, the project is well publicized on the internet and local public opinion seems to be in favor of Don Justo and his activities.

Justo Gallego Martinez currently (early 2018) is still working on his project,  but he realizes that he will not be able to complete it. As far as I know, he has the intention to bequeath the building to a local diocese.

Early february 2018 the ABC newspaper from Madrid reported that the city council of Mejorada del Campo unanimously supported a motion to initiate the procedure to designate the Cathedral as a Bien de Interés Cultural, which will imply a protected status. The local administrators will draw up a report on this matter and submit it to the Consejería de Cultura de la Comunidad de Madrid.
* Gabriele García Muñoz, "Aqui no hay Milagros". La Catdedral de Justo Gallego cincuenta años depues, in: Revista Sans Soleil/Bric-à-Brac, no 4 (2012), p 309-314
* Laia Rosa-Armengol, "La catedral inconclusa de Mejorado del Campo", in: Juan Antonio Ramirez, red, Escultecturas margivagantes: la arquitectura fantástica en España, p 214-227  Madrid (Siruela), 2006.
* Website The madman and the cathedral, about James Rogan's experiences, making a film about Don Justo (with a lot of background info).
* The site got a scholarly review in: Jo Farb Hernandez, Singular Spaces. From the Eccentric to the Extraordinary in Spanish Art Environments, Seatlle (Raw Vision, SPACES, San José State University), 2013. An abridged version is on the website of SPACES.
* Many more videos available via Youtube, but I would recommend this rather moving dutch video (Youtube, 2009, 8'50") by Maria Heidemann

* Video The lone man building a cathedral by hand  (subtitled in english, 2'27", downloaded july 2016, Youtube)

* On Vimeo the trailer of a film produced by Katarina Grbic entitled Pan Seco (Dry bread), first production in a project about various art environments in Spain

first published dec 2008, last revised febr 2018

Justo Gallego Martinez
Calle de Santa Rosa/Calle del arquitecte Antonio Gaudi
Mejorada del Campo, Madrid region, Spain
visitors in general welcome if this fits into Gallego's daily activities 
(only on the ground floor and with decent clothing)