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I just got back from a field trip to Madrid with my 1st year Architecture students. I was lucky enough to visit the Cathedral of Don Justo!! A truly incredible building, built entirely by a former trappist who has no structural or architectural training. He started the building in 1961 and is still building it today (he is now 81 years old, pictured in the second image, to the right of the concrete mixer) – His English was about as broken as my Spanish – but I think he was saying that he has been building without drawings & his only reference is a painting of St Peters Basilica (and his memory). He apparently uses donated materials to build & has never used a crane (though I don’t know how he managed to build the domes, they are quite tall)… The entire cathedral has been built without any planning permissions, or advice from architects and engineers – as a result, the place is a bit of a death trap (floors which look like solid concrete are actually quite bouncy…). The place is jam-packed with quirky and unusual details: For instance, the concrete columns have been cast using petrol drums as a formwork (you can see the seams in the photos) – they are quite wobbly and I don’t think they have any sort of reinforcement. I also learned that he lives in the cathedral, exists on bread and honey and works from 6 until 6 every day.y photos don’t even come close to capturing the atmosphere of the place. It’s truly amazing & definitely worth a visit (… And the risks that come with walking around a VERY unstable, large, unfinished building).


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