Catedral de Justo: One Man’s Dream, Another Man’s Rubbish Dump
So I heard about a pretty amazing Cathedral the other day. It’s relatively close to Madrid and if you’re visiting the city for a couple of days, this Cathedral would definitely make a unique addition to your Madrid itinerary.
Estimated read time 3-4 mins.
Feeling lazy? Skip Ahead
Mejorada Del Campo and Justo Gallego?
The Cathedral of Junk
Photos of Catedral de Justo
Further reading and information
Getting to Mejorada Del Campo
Watch the documentary
Mejorada Del Campo
The town of Mejorada Del Campo is about 20kms east of the centre of Madrid. Pretty unremarkable in itself, a functional commuter residence for many who work in Madrid, however, it’s not the place that I want to write about, but about the unique Cathedral.
Mejorada Del Campo is the home of the amazing Justo Gallego. Born in 1925 Mr Gallego has a deep-rooted Christian faith and passion that has seen him dedicate himself to his creator. At the age of 27, he entered the monastery of Santa Maria De La Huerta in the Spanish region of Soria.
However, after just eight years Mr Gallego was forced to return to his hometown of Mejorada after a severe case of tuberculosis. It was upon his return that he decided to devote the rest of his life to building a Cathedral in the name of Christ.
Having been told the story before I had laid eyes on the Cathedral, I was unsure if a. I believed what I had been told and b. What the hell it would look like.
As we pulled off the motorway, my eyes were darting around in anticipation, but I could see no evidence of the building and realised I should probably temper my expectations. I thought one man’s Cathedral could be another man’s house with a cross stuck on the roof so I went back to checking Facebook on my phone.
After a couple more turns I was feeling a little queasy, classic symptom of too much phone use in a car, when suddenly it came into view and what happened next can only be explained as a mind grenade. What the man has achieved is nothing short of a miracle in itself. If he is to be believed in his interviews (and I have no reason not to) almost all the work has been done by himself over a 50 year period, when you see it beggars belief. Justo Gallego is now over 90 years old, and he still continues.
My first thought was “How in the hell did he get planning permission for that?” The answer is he didn’t, but the council does not do anything because . . . well . . . Why would they? It’s awesome! In fact, although they are not officially supporting the project, they have renamed the street adjacent to the building Calle Antonio Gaudi. My next thought was poor neighbours. Could you imagine how the conversation went?
You’re just getting ready to head out, and there’s a knock at your door . . .
“Hi, I’m your new neighbour.”
“Hello, great to meet you, so what do you plan to do with the place?”
“Uhhh, I think I’m gonna build a Cathedral.”
“Nice, good luck with that, let me know if you need anything.”
Voice comes from upstairs
“Honey who was that at the door?”
“Our new madman neighbour, I think he’s lost it, says he’s gonna build a Cathedral next door.”
The Cathedral of Justo Gallego Martínez
Anyway, I digress. The first thing that struck me was the size of it, you’re not talking small village church here, this is a full-blown, four-story-high Cathedral. As you’d expect it’s still far from finished and shall we say somewhat post-apocalyptic MadMax looking, but it’s most definitely a cathedral.
As I approached, the reddish brown colour of the concrete steps gave the site a welcoming warm glow – not that Madrid in September needs any help with the heat. Peering through the metal gates at the top I could see down into the basement; it was packed with building supplies. Bags of cement, bricks, guttering and more. All the materials that I was looking at have been collected and donated over the years from surplus supplies left over from building projects in the city.
We made our way along the side of the Cathedral where we reached the main door. The archway stands at about three metres high made with what I can only describe as moulded concrete, far from pretty, but then pretty isn’t what this place is about, it’s about one man’s devotion to God and the lengths that he has gone to.
As we entered the main chamber, there’s no hiding it; it looked just as it is, work very much in progress. Behind you, as you enter is a sign (in English and Spanish) explaining that it is a live building site and you enter at your own risk. I only actually saw this on the way out, but I kind of guessed that would be the situation.
There is a small desk alongside the far wall where a lady sells lottery tickets, calendars and other small souvenirs to help fund the project as well as an opportunity to leave a donation. The suggestion is €2, but feel free to give more.
Photos of Justo’s Cathedral
As Featured in
The Cathedral has been featured in many publications throughout the year, including the BBC, New York Times, even in an Aquarius commercial (a Coca-Cola owned company), so although pretty famous, it is a little out of the way, so still relatively unvisited.
I enjoyed this place, unlike anything I have been to before and being given the freedom to roam made it extra special. We were lucky enough to see the man himself. He was in a private area so sadly we couldn’t talk to him but we got to see him work and peek into his office complete with religious icons and images of The Virgin.
You would not guess he is over 90 years old It saddens me to think (saving a miracle) that Mr Gallego won’t be around to see it finished and when he does pass on, I’ll be interested to see what happens to the building. Hopefully, they’ll take the same approach as the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona and do what they can to finish the project as close to the original designs as possible.
Getting to the Cathedral
Concerning getting to Mejorada Del Campo, I was lucky that I was able to get my wife to drive, but if you don’t have that luxury, there is a bus stop located just across the road from the Cathedral, line number 282 will take you directly there. Check out the timetable .
To finish this blog, I’ll leave the final word to the man himself. This excerpt is taken from this website The Madman and the Cathedral where you can find a lot more information about the man and his devotion.
“It has been almost fifty years since I devoted myself to building this cathedral and I still get up at three thirty in the morning to start my day. With the exception from time to time of assistants, I have done it all by myself, mostly using recycled building materials… and there is not set date for the end of this work. I content myself everyday offering to the Almighty the work He wishes me to do and it makes me happy to think of what I have already accomplished. And I will continue, till the end of my days, to keep working on the cathedral with my resources and donations from other.”
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42 thoughts on “The Rubbish Cathedral in Mejorada Del Campo”
Love this article! I work for Onemancathedral and we are helping Justo, now close to 95, to complete and secure is amazing work! If you can help consider leaving a donation at onemancathedral.com or share the link! our website is full of info and is a complete resource for videos and pictures about Justo and his work! thanks again for your help!
The title rubbish cathedral kinda makes it sound bad. Could u change the title name?
Hey man, thanks for the comment, I kind of like it as it is, but I will consider if I update the piece. Thanks for reading.
What a creative way to recycle!
I can definitely see why some may refer to it as some garbage, but then again it does have that VIP room;)
Good joke! It’s weird to think that he didn’t need building permission. The place look awesome 🙂 Love your photos and this post!
It’s a cool place for sure. Thanks for the nice feedback 🙂
What a crazy project! It looks incredible. I kind of like the dome unfinished. I’m not a religious person, but I love this man’s dedication.
That’s what struck me, I’m not religious at all, but this man’s commitment is pretty amazing.
Haha, I love how he didn’t get planning permission, that couldn’t happen in England. The council would make him demolish it. I love the quirky nature of the cathedral.
I would love to see a council in UK’s reaction! It would never happen I’m sure.
This is a really cool offbeat location. I don’t want to be a spoil sport, but is he qualified to build a safe structure? I mean if I come to visit, I want to know if the place has been constructed well and inspected and so on, since it was basically homemade.
From what I understand, he is a qualified architect, whether that means it’s safe I have no idea. Walking around felt safe enough, but I wouldn’t want to live there!
What a unique place to visit. I too was wondering how did he get planning permits for this!!
Yep – I think going down the classic Spanish route of who cares worked for him!
It’s fascinating story. Never heard of this place before. It’s amazing how much belief and dedication can do!
Exactly that, people are amazing!
What an interesting place and story… I had never heard of it until. The Cathedral looks rustic for sure. I believe that behind any old and unique building there is probably a madman that designed it. Of course now he will become famous because of all the tourists coming to see it
Madman, yep. He is very old so I’ll doubt he’ll be around by the time it becomes super famous, considering the life of work he’s put in to it I think he deserves all the recognition he gets.
Whoa! This place is so gorgeous and I love the story behind it. You were able to get a lot of lovely pictures here!
Thanks Sheri, it’s a cool place, I just wish I had my real camera rather than just my phone.
I’m not a religious person, but it’s very touching how this man’s faith drives him to build this cathedral. As you said, it might not be the most beautiful one but all the heart he’s putting into it makes it an incredible place. Also you cracked me up with your neighbourly dialogue !!!!!
Much the same for me, I’m not really a religious person and I often get upset at how much wealth/gold you find inside Cathedrals while people are begging by the door. However this is something different entirely, one man’s passion for his beliefs, this is something I can believe in. I’m happy I made you giggle, make person I’ve never met laugh a day and I’m happy!
That’s awesome, thanks so much for sharing. I hadn’t heard about this place when I visited Spain so didn’t get a chance to visit…maybe next time I’m in Spain 🙂 Thanks for posting such an inspirational topic and I love the way you wrote it and your bits of humour 🙂
Thanks, it’s a great place, hopefully you’ll get a chance. 🙂
Wow what a beautiful cathedral. I love how its not your typical cathedral you would visit. Best part about traveling is finding all these hidden gems around the world!
It’s worth the ride out there, something truly unique.
As a Spaniard I had heard of this cathedral, although I’ve never been there, I know it is impressive and crazy-looking. What strikes me the most is his dream to built something for something he believes in and that is the power of will, if only we had one as strong as he does.
Impressive and crazy looking hits the nail on the head – exactly how it looks! If ever you get a chance it is worth a visit. I agree though about his will, quite a man and quite a mission!
I saw an documentary about it on TV once and completely forgot about this place! Thank you for sharing 🙂 I think it’s absolutely amazing; not only the fact that a man just decides to build a freaking cathedral (i mean,.. seriously!) but that he actually has the passion, the dedication and the patience to do it, for years as a life long project.. I hope someone will carry on his work once he’s gone … it would be a shame if not! (i find it pretty awesome though that you’ve seem him..imagine in 100 years or 1000 years; it could be one of the world heritages!)
My girlfriend told me about it, well worth visiting if ever you get the chance, really close to Madrid. I also wonder what happens when he passes away, if it is protected, I guess we’ll wait and see, hopefully work continues the way he’d have wished.
That sounds like somewhere I have to go! I love the ancient architecture. I hope one day I make it to that prt of the world.
Haha, I loved your little joke about the neighbor at the door. Wow, that’s very ambitious to try and DIY your own cathedral! What a fun place to take photos though, it is a photographer’s playground!
Lol – thank you, plenty more jokes where that came from. It really is a playground, I was just so frustrated that I only had my phone with me, if I had my proper camera I’d probably still be there!
As a landscape architect, buildings and design always got my special interest. For example, I love Gaudi stuff. I might have to make a journey to check out this cathedral and learn more about Gallego, but so far I still don’t get the concept and the design.
Keep up with your blog!
Hey! Gaudi is amazing and I love it. What makes this guy different is he is doing it all with donations so rather than creating a design and getting what he needs to build it he looks at what he has and asks how do I build this with that. It really is a unique perspective and incredibly creative. Although it didn’t feel like the safest place to be! Well worth a trip.
this is why I love traveling seeing unique things that no other country has to offer – these are some incredibly architectural works that deserve to be shared widely
Thats crazy he didn’t even get planning permission! I wish more people were as confident as him haha! You have such lovely colourful pictures…
I know right, no planning permission, would love to see the Council that would dare tell him to stop now!
You visited this place? I heard about it before but did not know it became a tourist attraction. ?
Yes it’s open for visits. While I wouldn’t say it’s a tourist attraction it’s worth a visit. A good way for him to collect donations as well!