See a Rogue Cathedral Built by an Ex-Monk in Spain


In a small town a dozen miles north of Madrid, an ex-monk has been almost single-handedly building a giant cathedral that he hopes will one day rival St. Peter's Basilica in Rome. He has no blueprints, no construction experience, no planning permits, and no official sanction from the Church. Despite all of that, his building is an impressive testament to one man's ingenuity—and a reminder of what one person can achieve when they devote their entire life to a project.

As Dylan Thuras of Atlas Obscura notes in the new video above, Justo Gallego Martínez decided at an early age to dedicate his life to God. Despite his dedication as a Trappist monk in the 1950s, he was asked to leave his order after eight years of service—his extreme piety seems to have freaked people out. While some might have seen this as a rebuff, Don Justo doubled down on his devotion and decided God wanted him to build a cathedral. He began laying the foundation for the building in 1963 on a plot of land given to him by his parents.

More than five decades later, his sprawling cathedral has a 131-foot-tall dome modeled on St. Peter's and an interior about the size of a football field. The construction materials—mostly scavenged or donated—are often humble, including “stained glass” made of crushed-up glass set into glue, pillars made from oil drums, and a dome constructed of plastic food tubs.

The cathedral is far from complete. Don Justo eventually wants it to have two spires, and rise about 80 meters tall (or about 262 feet). But at the age of 90, he knows he won’t be finishing the project himself. So far, no one has stepped up to finish the task.

You can learn more about Don Justo, and see Thuras explore the cathedral, in the video above.

[h/t Atlas Obscura]

Header images: Jose.Madrid via Flickr // CC BY 2.0