Photo by Gianfranco Tripodo for The New York Times

photos by Gianfranco Tripodo for The New York Times

“This is where my vocation has taken me and this is where I’m prepared to suffer, just as Jesus Christ taught us to suffer for others.”
-Justo Gallego

Faith and commitment take on a new meaning when you are a devout Catholic, 91 years-young and you decide to build a Cathedral – all by yourself!

This is the story of Justo Gallego, a man who is basically a self-taught architect and builder who decides to build his personal Cathedral of Faith in his home town of Mejorada del Campo, Spain. Erected without building permits and with the tacit permission of his neighbors, the mayoralty and the city, Mr. Gallego has become an international sensation thanks to his devotion.

Gianfranco Tripodo for The New York Times

“I’ve not been building this to get money or fame, just as I’m not here to listen to people decide whether I’m mad or unique.”

Using recycled materials, building materials donated from friends and others interested in his project, Mr. Gallego has yet to complete his masterwork and is preparing for the day when he may have to pass his project on to others. He has already built his own private crypt, the burial spot within the Cathedral he has chosen as his final resting place.

The New York Times, in a fascinating profile of the self-taught civil engineer, was first to report on the story:

“Mr. Gallego was born here in 1925, on the day of the town’s patron saint, the Virgin of Sorrows. At 27, he joined a monastery in the northern province of Soria, but was ordered to leave eight years later, after he caught tuberculosis and risked contaminating the other monks.”

Mr. Gallego has created quite an international following with many people already lined up to help him complete his work. What makes his story doubly fascinating is his commitment to doing all the necessary labor by himself, without aid from anyone else, until relatively recently with his health in decline.

The Cathedral calls to mind the famous Sagrada Familia in Barcelona, a master work of architecture yet to be completed and first designed by Antoni Gaudi. Interestingly the, The Cathedral of Faith is situated on Antoni Gaudi Street. The Cathedral of Faith includes recycled tires and other products. The roof is not yet complete but the interior already includes many painted frescoes.

“It’s an exceptional work, and he’s a good man.”
-Pedro Luis Jiménez Langa