Photo: Cathedral de Justo Gallego Martinez, courtesy of Jose Javier Martin Espartosa.
Possibly the world’s oldest hands-on designer/architect, Justo Gallego continues to turn heads at 91. Gallego served as a monk for 7 years in a northern Spain monastery. But it wasn’t until he contracted tuberculosis that he found his true calling: erecting a cathedral all by himself.
What’s amazing about this story is that Gallego had no previous experience working in design or architecture. Instead he was possessed with a vision of a cathedral to be mounted in the heart of Madrid. Some 50 plus years later Gallego’s cathedral stands at 165 feet long and 80 feet wide. And it is still a work-in-progress.
Largely inspired by both the White House and St. Peter’s Basilica, the cathedral is ahead of the design curve. Before the concept of using recycled source material was a thing in the design community, Gallego was already piecing together the makings of the impressive structure by incorporating whatever materials he could salvage.
While he lives on minimal means, a paltry $500 a month pension, the cathedral is every bit the work of a larger than life masterpiece.