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91-Year-Old Builds Cathedral Because…Priorities

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.

Cathedral de Justo Gallego Martinez. Photo courtesy of Jose Javier Martin Espartosa.

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.