Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Do It Yourself: The Cathedral of Justo Gallego Martínez

Justo Gallego Martínez (also known as Don Justo) (born 1925) is a Spanish ex-monk who has been building a cathedral in the Spanish village of Mejorada del Campo, near Madrid, since 1961.

Martínez was a farmer. As a young man, he joined a Trappist monastery but had to leave in 1961, after eight years, when he contracted tuberculosis and his health deteriorated in the monastic regime. He began to build a cathedral on a plot of land he had inherited from his parents. He had promised, that if he recovered from the tuberculosis which had struck him down, he would build a shrine in honour of the Lady of the Pillar, to whom he had prayed.

There are no formal plans for the building. It has evolved over time in response to opportunity and inspiration. One inspiration has been the Cupola of St Peter's Basilica- in Vatican City.

The cathedral has been bequeathed by Gallego Martinez to the Bishopric of nearby Alcalá de Henares. He says that his building is dedicated to Nuestra Señora del Pilar ("Our Lady of the Pillar"), an advocation of Mary, mother of Jesus, whose main shrine is in Zaragoza.

The outline of building is 20x50 metre. An area of about 8,000m2 has been built. This includes a complex ensemble of cloisters, offices, lodgings and a library. The cathedral already has a dome (modelled on St Peters) rising to some 40 metres, some 12 metres in diameter -- whose steel girders were raised with the aid of his six nephews using pulleys.

Most of the building materials and tools he uses for construction are recycled. He uses both everyday objects and excess construction materials donated by construction companies and a nearby brick factory. For instance, the columns have been moulded with old petrol drums.

It is estimated that it may take another 15 to 20 years to complete the building.

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