Tuesday, February 22, 2011

impossible dreams

Although I'm not much of anything when it comes to religion, I couldn't help but be impressed by a man who has devoted the past 50 years of his life to building a cathedral all by himself. The simple story is that he was unable to continue his life as a monk when he contracted tuberculosis and was ejected from his monastery by those who feared contagion. Another I've read is that he was so devout he fasted himself close to starvation and when he became ill the worried Benedictines decided he'd best not return. He did recover and resolved to build a cathedral on part of his family's farm near Madrid, selling off parcels of land to buy what he could and scavenging at building sites for what he could use. With no architectural training, or any drawn plans, Don Justo simply started to build.

Looking at the galleries of pictures on the website you can see pillars made from cement cylinders that were moulded in plastic buckets, concrete heads of Christ and the Apostles standing on spikes, a staircase built of misshapen bricks, and circular windows whose forms were made from tires. The rickety ladders and scaffolding are enough to make any building inspector cry in frustration but Don Justo has never had an accident.

I loved this quote by him, 'I appreciate the art in many things but all beauty now is ruined by money. There is so much confusion and distraction in the world so I see myself as a martyr. Every man should be a saint.'

El Loco de la Catedral from James Rogan on Vimeo.

It's nice to know there are some who try.
Best wishes to all who do.


  1. "El loco de la cathedral." There are indeed worse madnesses than this.

    Art is indeed being ruined by money - as is much else.

    Somehow reading your post I was reminded of the Del Amitri song Nothing ever happens
    (a cover version here, but a good one!). Maybe it's the line:
    "While American businessmen snap up Van Goghs,
    For the price of a hospital wing ..."

  2. Faith that deep is so beyond the experience of most of us that it comes off as being a bit insane......Hmm.....If only more of us were this insane.

  3. you find the coolest stuff! that monastery really lost out when they sent him away..... this sparks ideas for my little backyard plot..... clank, whirrrrr go the brain wheels.

  4. what a sweetheart. I think its a bit rude to call him mad! I wonder if it will ever be finished.

  5. francis - It's a sad state of affairs we see around us, isn't it? I enjoyed hearing that song which I'd never heard before. Thanks for posting the link.

    mrmacrum - I'm reminded of Don Quixote's epitaph: 'For if he like a madman lived, at least he like a wise one died.'

    gfid - The cathedral seems to be what he was meant to do in life. Would that most of the rest of us were so sure. I'd love to see your backyard in a few more years :-)

    claire - He is certainly a sweet man but I think he'd have to live at least another 50 years to really finish his cathedral.

  6. You find and share some of the mosr interesting things on the internet! This man's faith and passion just gave my heart wings. Now, on to watch the vimeo....

  7. Gasp! Money über alles, you filthy hippies make Baby Capitalist cry.

  8. Wonderful. I hope that his vision is completed.

  9. you post the neatest,spiffy-keen stuff. Sorry for not stopping more often.... I got political for a bit and it has given me indigestion. Never, never eat a politician... you never know what THEY have eaten.

  10. I just wish he would have taken that passion and really been religious--like feed the poor or something like Jesus preached his followers to do.

    Oh boy, gots a bit of a 'tude here if I do say so myself ;~)

  11. gary - It's a good one.

    lydia - Sometimes any excuse will suffice to avoid the drawing table. I hope you enjoyed the video.

    randal - Capitalist baby should be thrown out with bath water.

    jams - may he live in health a long, long time.

    okjimm - Politicians, now that the B team is on the field, are very distasteful.

  12. I don't know that I'll ever again be comfortable claiming that a task is too large for me. Thanks for that, both you and Don Justo!

  13. Hi Susan,
    It amazing what some people can accomplish single-handedly in a lifetime. Great story and picture. Your panting waves in watercolor are lovely to coincide with the good news waves created by sea shepherd. I visited sea shepherd when it was birthed here in Melbourne and have been following their activities for a number of years.
    best wishes

  14. People share their faith in different ways. Some feed the poor, some build a cathedral that will probably inspire many others, give comfort to the faithful, and, ultimately, show that the creative spirit and purpose will not be denied. I enjoyed learning about this remarkable person.

  15. .... well, i'd better get to work on that backyard... just in case you're in northern alberta some time ;0) ...my problem is i seem to think there are so MANY things i was meant to do.... and it's questionable if i really can do all of 'em.

  16. cr - I wish I could say the same but I know my own laziness far too well.

    lindsay - It certainly is but people like Don Justo are rare.

    I'm happy you got to visit the Sea Shepherd and that you support their work. How could we not?

    snoring dog studio - I guess the best share their faith out of shear exuberance for life. People are amazing, aren't they?

    gfid - I think being unable to focus on one particular thing and ignore all the rest is what makes most of us normal. Whatever you do with that backyard will be wonderful.

  17. This is magnificant! Like the Watts Towers. He didn't have any of the usual sense of human limitation - he just waded in and did it. That does seem to me to be the same power that drives Saints. Whether from a conviction that the power is from God or from some deeper source within, the faith in the power, and a devotion to the task regardless of obstacles enables human beings to rise to amazing heights.

    I also love the simple homespun approaches to create something sublime. And the way he rechanneled his initial calling into something different when he met a real roadblock. This story is inspring in so many ways. Thanks for sharing it!

  18. steve - He certainly has been consumed by passion and his results really are amazing. One thing I read about the project is that he goes from one aspect of it to another without ever quite finishing anything. Perhaps the lack of availability of certain materials is the reason. The whole of it is a marvel as it is even if it never does get completed.

  19. nancy - Yes, very interesting indeed.

  20. Passion, religious or otherwise, continues to move people to create. That is divine.

    Thanks for this!

  21. gina - I'm so glad you came by to see it. When looking for cool stuff to post about I so often run across things that aren't that it's extra special to find someone like Don Justo.