What happens when you are told some story about an ex-monk who’s been hammering away the last 50+ years building a church cathedral?




A SELF-built cathedral in Mejorada del Campo.



I know. I didn’t buy the story as gospel truth. Until my friend Jaime actually brought me to Mejorada del Campo some 20 kilometers from the city center.




An “illustration” of Don Justo’s vision. Mejorada del Campo.
Photo Credit: Discovery Channel



Ex-monk Justo Gallego Martinez, now 88 years old, has a plan. After only 8 years in a Trappist Monastery, he had to leave in 1961 after falling ill of tuberculosis. He prayed then to Our Lady of the Pillar and vowed to build a shrine in her honor when he recovers from his ailment.




The man. The ex Monk. Don Justo Gallego Martinez. Born 1925. On a mission since 1961.



Don Justo, as he is fondly called. He’s been at it since 1961 when he started building with his own bare hands on a piece of inherited land. There were no architectural plans, no blueprint, so to speak. Just a vision. Reminds me of the dzongs (fortress cum temple) of Bhutan. So there, both inspired by a deep spirituality. Amazing.




Stained glass, all donated, for this awesome man’s ambitious project.



It behooves me to think this man is still around and “at it”. I mean, 88? When Jaime said he wanted me to meet the old man, I wasn’t sure how to react. We found him carrying a hollow block (!), busily minding the construction. He gets a lot of help now from his 6 nephews and some locals. He also gets donations in cash and in kind (construction materials) for his ambitious project.




Care to climb up to the top dome and lay down a brick or G.I. Sheet?


Some roofing materials waiting to be installed. Who’s climbing up?



Jaime egged me to climb up to the dome. I chickened out. There’s still so much left unfinished. Can’t help thinking what will happen when the old man goes. Like the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona, this cathedral will count many more years to get completed. Incidentally, the structure is built along Calle Gaudi. How fitting.




The inside requires just as much work.



By God’s mercy, I hope to see the completed cathedral in another visit. Not sure if Don Justo, as he is fondly called, would still be around, but for his sake, I pray his vision is realized. Jaime is right — the best time to see this Cathedral is NOW. Meeting Don Justo in person is a bonus. An event meant to remind you of how some men can be so faithful and persevering. Don Justo’s covenant with his God and to the Lady is very inspirational.




One last look before we go. Thank you, Jaime Marco, for bringing me here.