Act Of Faith

The BBC ran a wonderful piece about Don Justo, 85, a former novice monk who was expelled from his monastery when he contracted TB around fifty years ago.  Since that time, he has spent his inheritance building a church that is 131 feet tall and is partly modeled on St. Peter’s at the Vatican.

What’s really interesting is that it’s built of items he has recycled — rejected bricks and broken tiles from factories, oil drums, etc.  Not an architect or bricklayer, Don Justo’s background is in farming.

All the pics interspersed here are used courtesy Gustavo Marin on Flickr under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic.  Thank you!

Don Justo:
cuentos I
La catedral de Don Justo
El patio
Growing towers
Capilla descapotable
Take a sit
Bad brick, good brick
The BBC feature reads in part:
“I do it for faith. That’s clear, no?” the energetic octogenarian wonders, pausing to warm himself by an open fire.

His church has no planning permission or formal architectural plans. All the details, Justo says, are “in my head”.

Partly modeled on St Peter’s in the Vatican, Justo claims his construction also borrows from the White House, various castles and other Madrid churches. It’s an eclectic mix.

The vast central dome took 20 years to erect and there are two dozen more incomplete cupolas around the building.

There are cloisters, a sacristy, even a cavernous crypt. Sections of several walls have been painted gaudily to depict scenes from the Bible.

“Realising my ideal spurs me on. People today are very passive, they don’t value anything. They’re slaves to worldly things.”

But Justo is well aware his extraordinary ideal may never be fully realised.

As well as finishing the windows, the central dome still has no cover and the floor is bare; spiral staircases curl up towards the heavens and end in mid-air.

Scrawled on the wall in chalk are urgent appeals to visitors to donate funds for the church’s completion.

So far, the town council has tolerated the illicit structure, which lures a steady trickle of visitors to the nondescript suburb. Some suspect the chaotically-constructed church will not outlast its creator.

…the eccentric edifice as an icon of the town now, unlikely to be torn down.

Justo has bequeathed his building to the local bishopric in the hope it can eventually serve as a fully functional parish church. That’s his ideal, though he’s pragmatic.

“Who knows what he’ll do. It’s up to him,” he shrugs. But as Don Justo rushes back to yet another urgent task, he says he has no regrets.

“If I lived my life again, I’d build this church again, only bigger. Twice the size,” he smiles, his elderly eyes sparkling.

“Because for me, this is an act of faith.”

Ooooh.  I like him.  Growing up in Cullman and visiting Ave Maria Grotto so much, I think that’s what gave me an appreciation of art environments and the people that create them, especially.  These pics are ones I’ve taken there myself:

Ave Maria Grotto, Cullman AL

The idea that Brother Joseph Zoettl took things that no one had any use for — old cold cream jars, shells/rocks/tiles/marbles…people used to mail him all kinds of things to incorporate into his works…

Statue of Liberty Tribute at Ave Maria Grotto, Cullman AL

Hansl and Gretl Visit the Castle of the Fairies, Ave Maria Grotto, Cullman AL

…which people have enjoyed for years and years…

The Temple in Miniature at Ave Maria Grotto, Cullman AL

Thank goodness for people who do wonderful things by faith alone.

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