In the town of Mejorada del Campo, about 20 km from Madrid stands a cathedral like no other. The construction of this stunning edifice began in 1961 and it is still an ongoing project. This cathedral is being built by Justo Gallego Martinez, a 91-year-old former Trappist monk as an act of faith.
Born in 1925, Don Justo saw his school education interrupted by the Spanish Civil War. He witnessed communist forces shooting priests and ransacking the church. This left him with a distrust of government and a desire to enter into the service of the church. He became a Trappist monk in 1953, but after 8 years he was forced to leave the monastery because he had contracted tuberculosis.
Devastated by the setback in his first attempt to begin a spiritual life, Don Justo prayed to the Virgin Mary and vowed that he would build a chapel if he recovered from his illness. With no formal training in building or architecture, without any plans, drawings and support from the local church, Don Justo began laying the foundations of a great cathedral with his own hands on a plot of land bequeathed to him by his parents.
The cathedral has been built single-handedly, piece by piece, without using so much as a crane. Don Justo worked alone for almost 20 years, but now has support from family and volunteers. The church is built from materials that were either found, recycled or donated from local tile and brick factories.
Almost 56 years later, the frame of the cathedral, which has a 131-foot-tall dome modeled on St. Peter’s, towers over the town of Mejorada del Campo. There are spires, circular stained glass windows, and scenes from the Bible painted on both the interior and exterior. At 91 years old, Gallego knows that he will not be able to finish the project in his lifetime. But he keeps at it anyway, day after day, driven by his faith.