Former monk shows true devotion, spending 50 years building cathedral from scratch in Spanish town

Justo Gallego, 91, at work on the cathedral he is building in Mejorada del Campo, Spain, on March 15, 2017.
Justo Gallego, 91, at work on the cathedral he is building in Mejorada del Campo, Spain, on March 15, 2017.PHOTO: NYTIMES

Talk about religious dedication - a former monk has spent more than 50 years building a cathedral from scratch in the Spanish town of Mejorada del Campo, east of Madrid.

Since Mr Justo Gallego recovered from the bout of tuberculosis that forced him to leave the monastery he joined aged 27, the former monk, now 91, has been steadfast in his vision to build a cathedral.

Despite the lack of local government funding or even a building permit, Mr Gallego, who also goes by Don Justo, has not wavered in his mission, which began in the 1960s.

Instead, he has used recycled or discarded material salvaged from construction sites and factories to erect the cathedral on the 20m by 50m plot his family owns, according to the blog Naked Madrid.

To finance the work, he sold family farmlandand through donations.

Parts of the building's pillars are made from car tyres, while stained glass windows and frescoes adorn its walls. Of the cathedral's 28 domes, the largest measures roughly 40m across and took 30 years to construct, reported the BBC.

A lack of grounding in architecture or building construction has also failed to stop the former monk, who told The New York Times earlier this week that "the only plan is made in my head, drawn day by day".

Though he estimated the building will take 15 to 20 more years to complete - it is missing a roof while the 38m cupola is yet to be finished - it is already a tourist attraction and has earned him the respect of the town's inhabitants.

One resident, Mr Victor Morillo, told The New York Times: "This man has built something incredible against all odds and turned it into a symbol of our town."

Mr Gallego said the building, which has not been formally named but is identified as the Cathedral of Faith in online maps, was a demonstration of his faith, not an attempt at grabbing fame or money.

But as the building has not been consecrated, its future remains uncertain.

Officials also appeared non-committal and made no promises about the construction of the cathedral, regardless of its status as a crowd-puller or symbol of the town.

With his health getting fragile, he has relied more on friends and volunteers to help him with the construction.

Nonetheless , he remained unperturbed.

"Jesus Christ is the one who makes the real plans and decides what eventually should happen," he told The New York Times.

Sources: The New York Times, CNN, BBC, Naked Madrid