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91-year-old builds cathedral on his own, city does not want it – VIDEO

91-year-old Justo Gallego has been building a cathedral in his town of Mejorada del Campo, near Madrid’s Barajas airport, since 1961. Nevertheless, the town as repeatedly refused to provide the construction with funds or legal permits. 

Justo Gallego failed in his ambition to become a priest, so he decided to start building a cathedral. He did not have any plans or sketches, yet he started the construction in 1961, using recycled masonry and household rubbish items such as bottles, cans and old tyres. Working completely by himself, he managed to erect a complex that includes a cloister and a cupola almost 40 metres high, that also has artistic touches such as frescoes and coloured-glass windows. “I do it out of faith; there is no other reason,” Gallego says.

Gallego cathedral

Nevertheless, the fate of the construction is uncertain, as the cathedral does not receive funds beyond private donations, with the town council declaring that it lacks money for a construction with no legal permit and the potential of being unsafe. “We cannot spend the people’s money on a private construction when we are having to close public buildings due to a lack of funding. Like many other municipalities around Spain, the crisis and the lack of building projects started in recent years has starved us of funds,” says the local planning chief, Encarnación Martín.


While Martín does think that Gallego’s construction is indeed “emblematic”, and states that the town repeatedly asked for assistance in making the building both legal and safe, all the authorities that were contacted refused to get involved: the Spanish government, Madrid’s regional authorities and Spain’s College of Architects. “We don’t have the technical wherewithal to provide a solution. Is the building stable? Is it safe? We have no way of knowing.” If experts did finally turn up and declare the building unsafe, Martín accepts that the cathedral would have to be demolished.

Gallego says he decided to devote his life to the Church after seeing attacks against religious institutions in the town by “communists” around the time of the Spanish civil war in the mid 1930s.

He currently lives in the open and unheated space that is his own cathedral.

Despite the fact that the cathedral is bringing in a constant number of tourists, Gallego says he does not have much time for those that do not want to help him with his construction.

Lydia Peirce