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Madrid monk's 60-year 'scrap cathedral' project lives on after his death

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Justo Gallego Martinez, 73, poses in front of the cathedral he started to build on his own some 40 years ago in Mejorada del Campo near Madrid
Justo Gallego Martinez, 73, poses in front of the cathedral he started to build on his own some 40 years ago in Mejorada del Campo near Madrid   -   Copyright  AFP
By Theo Farrant  & AFP

For over 60 years, former monk Justo Gallego had been building a cathedral out of scrap materials on the outskirts of Madrid. A project he would never see completed.

The 96-year-old died over the weekend, but left the unfinished complex in Mejorada del Campo to a charity run by a priest that has vowed to complete his labour of love.

Gallego began the project in 1961 when he was in his mid-30s on land inherited from his family after a bout of tuberculosis forced him to leave an order of Trappist monks.

'An extraordinary man, with an impressive faith'

AFP
The cathedral stands in a street called Avenida Antoni Gaudi, named after the architect behind Barcelona's Sagrada FamiliaAFP

The cathedral stands in a street called Avenida Antoni Gaudi, named after the architect behind Barcelona's Sagrada Familia.

Justo used bricks, wood and other material scavenged from old building sites. The project was also funded through donations that began to arrive once the project became better known.

The building's pillars are made from stacked oil drums while windows have been cobbled and glued together from shards of coloured glass.

"Recycling is fashionable now, but he used it 60 years ago when nobody talked about it," said Juan Carlos Arroyo, an engineer and architect with engineering firm CALTER.

The charity that is taking over the project, 'Messengers of Peace', hired the firm to assess the structural soundness of the building, which lacks a permit.

Father Angel Garcia Rodriguez, the maverick priest who founded 'Messengers of Peace', wants to turn Gallego's building into an inclusive space for all faiths and one that is used to help the poor.

Check out the video above to see more of Gallego's cathedral