Welcome to Justo’s Cathedral, a gathering place for all individuals, crafted by the hands of one man. A space to embrace everyone: men and women, rich or poor, believers and non-believers alike. A meeting point for every kind of religion. Join us in exploring the intricacies of its construction as well as the life of its builder, Justo Gallego.
On October 12, 1961, Justo Gallego began constructing a chapel dedicated to the Our Lady of the Pillar in the former farmlands of Mejorada del Campo. At that time, he had no inkling that this modest construction would evolve into a much larger and ambitious project to which he would dedicate his entire life. He also could not have foreseen that, over time, half the world would gaze upon his work with a mixture of admiration, surprise, and fascination. But what exactly was it that drove a farmer with no architectural education to devote himself wholeheartedly to sixty years of hard work? Justo Gallego grew up in a deeply religious family. At 27, he decided to enter the monastery of Santa María de Huerta in Soria to become a Cistercian monk. However, he caught tuberculosis and had to leave the monastery to prevent the infection from spreading to the other monks. Upon returning to Mejorada del Campo, he effectively interrupted the life plan he had once outlined.
It took over a year for him to recover, and once he regained his strength, he decided to build a small hermitage in honour of the Virgin Mary as a gesture of gratitude for overcoming the illness. He began construction on a vast plot inherited from his parents in his hometown. With no construction experience, lacking architectural knowledge, a work plan, or project sketches, his plans were drawn in his mind, inspired by everything he had read and seen in books on Romanesque architecture and castles. Soon, he felt the project could and should be more extensive. And so, it was. For over sixty years, Justo worked independently, creating an incredible architectural masterpiece using only discarded materials from the nearby industrial area. “This cathedral has been made only with things that people didn’t want, and I transformed,” Justo used to say.
He financed the project and his frugal lifestyle through the profits from the family plot he had received and private donations from pilgrims. Gradually, he progressed through his work completely freely and at the pace dictated by his resources and inspiration. In Justo’s words: “When you believe, you can also rebuild a beautiful place with your own hands.” And so, he financed and built an architectural marvel that later spanned 4,700 square meters, 35 meters in height at its highest point, with a central nave of 50 meters in length, an underground crypt, two cloisters, a baptistery, 12 towers spanning 60 meters in length, 28 domes, and over 2,000 stained glass windows. During the years dedicated to this project, Justo received occasional assistance from many people.
A humble man like Justo Gallego succeeded in putting Mejorada del Campo on the national and international map. In 2004, he participated in the exhibition “The Real Royal Trip” at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. In 2005, he was contacted by Aquarius, a Spanish soft drink company, to share his story in an advertising campaign, providing significant visibility to the project. In 2017, the cathedral appeared in the New York Times. Since then, thousands of people from every country in the world visit this cathedral to admire the work of Justo Gallego. Additionally, hundreds of media outlets have taken an interest in his work, as can be seen from the sheer amount of Google and YouTube entries.
After sixty years of intense work, what was originally intended to be a small chapel would transform into a temple, donated in 2021 to the association Mensajeros de la Paz (Messengers of Peace), entrusted with completing and preserving Justo’s work and turning this space into a meeting place for all individuals and religions.