An 88-Year-Old Man Has Spent 50 Years Building This Cathedral Out Of Recycled Materials

For the past 50 years, a cathedral made of trash has steadily risen above the small town of Mejorada del Campo, just outside Madrid, Spain.

One man is behind it all: a former Trappist monk named Justo Gallego, or Don Justo.

He started building the church in 1961, after a bout with tuberculosis forced him to leave the monastery where he lived. He sold some of his inherited land to raise enough money to start construction, using salvaged materials like donated bricks and oil drums to build it.

Incredibly, Justo has no architectural or construction experience. Occasionally volunteers will help him with the work, but most of it he does himself. He doesn’t even have any formal design plans — he told the BBC in 2010 that all of the details for the 24,000-square-foot church are “in my head.”

Critics call him a madman and his cathedral trash, and the town seems to have turned a blind eye to the fact that neither his materials nor the building itself meets construction codes.

Still, the building shows a remarkable beauty and attention to detail.

“If I lived my life again, I’d build this church again, only bigger. Twice the size,” he said to the BBC. “Because for me, this is an act of faith.”

The cathedral's towers reach a height of 130 feet.

The incomplete dome, modelled after St. Peter's Basilica in Rome, was made from cut-up plastic food tubs. It took 20 years just to erect the structure.

There's still quite a bit of work to be done up here.

Justo poses next to two handcrafted stained-glass windows inside.

Up close, you can see that the artwork is made up of broken pieces of coloured glass.

There are hundreds of these brightly-coloured windows.

The supporting columns were moulded from empty oil drums.

Overall, the interior seems dark and unfinished.

But large windows in this area let in some light.

The interior decorations incorporate plenty of Catholic symbolism.

As Justo nears 90, his work has slowed down a bit, and he no longer works outside during the winter.

The detailing may be crude and uneven, but it shows an incredible amount of dedication.

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