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 fifty 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 handedely would create an imposing cathedral.

The local authorities did not intervene. However, they are not convinced of the firmness of the construct, and  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 have been constructed by using old oil drums, filled up with cement.

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.

Don Justo, who is motivated to construct the cathedral by a deep religious conviction, has devoted the cathedral  to Nuestra Senora del Pilar, Madre de Jesus. The spanish catholic church shows no interest in 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 (2016) 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 bequeathe the building to a local diocese.
* 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)

first published dec 2008, revised dec 2010, may, nov 2012, dec 2013, feb 2015, jul 2016

Justo Gallego Martinez

Calle de Santa Rosa/
Calle del arquitecte Antonio Gaudi
Mejorada del Campo, Madrid region, Spain

visitors in general are welcome (only on the ground floor and only with decent clothing)