The Spanish ex-monk on a 56-year mission to build his own cathedral | World news

In a small town just to the west of Madrid, a cathedral is being built – just as it has been for the past 56 years. It is a symbol of one man’s faith and dedication.

Its creator is Justo Gallego, a 92-year-old former monk now too frail to do much more than supervise the construction of his idiosyncratic cathedral – an act of devotion he began this day in 1961 – and chastise those women who dare to enter the house of God wearing short skirts.

He sits in an armchair in the building site that is the cathedral’s nave, among the bags of sand, cement and render, and beneath bright frescoes showing the Annunciation and the Finding in the Temple. Swallows hurl themselves around the columns and galleries of his life’s work.

But Gallego knows he is unlikely to live to see the cathedral completed. “I’m drowning,” he says, tapping his chest.

Gallego began the project on 12 October 1961, the feast day of Nuestra Señora del Pilar, after tuberculosis forced him to leave the Cistercian order and return home to revive an old dream.

The exterior of Gallego’s cathedral.



The exterior of Gallego’s cathedral. Photograph: Sam Jones for the Guardian

He was nine years old when the Spanish civil war broke out. As well as the nights spent hiding from bombs in cellars and the dogfights that sent planes spinning towards the ground, he remembers the churches burned down by the communists.

“I’d had the idea for the cathedral since I was a child,” he says. “I’ve always loved the church. When I was little and my mother used to give me money, instead of spending it on silly things, I bought candles and gave them to the priest. It all comes from what my mother taught me.”

With the help of volunteers, donations and the odd bequest – not to mention a Land Rover, an excavator and a John Deere tractor – he has managed to keep the dream alive.

His friend and factotum Ángel López has promised to carry on the work when Gallego has gone and ensure the cathedral is one day a home for the faithful.

“Ángel is very good and he knows what he’s doing … I don’t do anything any more; those days are over. I just sit and tell Ángel what to put where and what not to do.”

All Gallego lacks now are funds – and a little more time.

A drawing of how Gallego’s cathedral will look.



A drawing of how Gallego’s cathedral will look. Photograph: Sam Jones for the Guardian

The cathedral has been built on land owned by the Gallego family, without the permission or support of the local council. From steel, cement, old car tyres, bottles and willpower, Gallego has fashioned towers, a crypt, a cloister and the dome, which sits 35 metres (115ft) above the dusty floor.

The temple of brick and thrifty ingenuity is known as the Cathedral of Faith.

“I’ve never thought about abandoning the project. You have to carry on. The only thing I need is money. I don’t need architects; I’ve moved past them. I’m a hard worker: give me the money and I’ll make it look beautiful.”

He lives frugally, sleeps in a room off the cathedral complex and, save for the odd plea for sartorial modesty (“I tell them to get out and come back properly covered”), exchanges few words with tourists and visitors.

Those who make the pilgrimage are politely steered in the direction of an enormous donation box while signs ask people to leave Gallego alone and instead commemorate the trip with a €15 book about his life or a €5 calendar.

The interior of Gallego’s cathedral in in Mejorada del Campo.



The interior of Gallego’s cathedral in in Mejorada del Campo. Photograph: Sam Jones for the Guardian

Despite his fervour, anchoritic existence and frequent depiction as one-part Don Quixote, one-part Antoni Gaudí and one-part monomaniac, Gallego is very aware of how he is seen in the town and beyond.

“They think this is all the work of a madman. It doesn’t bother me at all. The pharisees said Christ was casting out devils with the help of Beelzebub, that he was possessed.”

And besides, he hints, sometimes the act itself is more important than its result.

“You have to follow Christ on the cross,” he says. “Some people are Christians in name only: when they see the cross, they hide. Not me. I’m always focused on the cross.”

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Marrie Bot’s best photograph: bath-time on an ancient pilgrimage through Andalucía | Art and design

I’ve been taking photographs on the El Rocío pilgrimage for 40 years, and it’s still just as intense an experience as it was the first time. Each year, more than 100 brotherhoods travel to the hermitage at El Rocío from all over Andalucía. I had heard that the Brotherhood of Triana was famous for its richness and its beauty, so in 1976 I decided to travel with them.

I went to their district in Seville, where they start their journey, and it was overwhelming: all the women in these beautiful flamenco dresses; the men just as beautifully dressed up; the horses; the oxen; the heavily decorated hooded wagons, or carretas each family travels with; the silver carreta out front, carrying the simpecado, the banner without sin, that some people venerate even more than the Virgin herself. I didn’t know whether to look left or right, in front or behind.

I’d met a Spanish photographer and was surprised to see he had a huge military duffle bag. He explained that we would be out in the fields for three days, with no shops and nothing to eat. All I had was my camera, 20 rolls of film and a T-shirt.

I kept going back. One time, in 1980, I had nowhere to sleep after we arrived in El Rocío. I was so tired after three days on the road, and needed somewhere to put my bags and films. A woman – I called her the Holy Magdalena – saw me crying. “What’s happening chica?” she said. “Come with me.” From that moment on I was part of Magdalena’s family, along with brother Joaquín and her children, Inmaculada and Marie Lole. One of their nephews, José Antonio, joined later on, and when he got married and had children, he started his own carreta family. This photo, from 2003, is of his wife, María José, washing their daughter, Rocío – in Andalucía, it’s an extremely common name – in a campsite basin at the end of the day.

Life on the camino, or pilgrimage route, is like stepping back in time. In this image you can see the makeshift outdoor kitchen, the bulls in the background, the carreta behind them: those are the things that make the story. It’s about improvising, making do with what you have. Otherwise it’s just a mother bathing her child.

In Andalucía, people are very devoted, but they’re not really churchgoers. They’re baptised and married in church, but for them it’s more about the rituals, the processions. On the camino, they do the rosary in the fields, and mass in the campsite every night. When passing a river, everyone gets baptised with a special El Rocío name. There’s constant singing.

The girls and the women travel with 10-15 dresses. You get so dirty every day, but you have to be clean and smart, so they change all the time. I always wear trousers and walking boots, and they always say: “Oh, María.” (I’m Maria there; Marrie is a little bit difficult.) But I can’t work with a dress on – I have to run after carretas, and bulls. I have to sit on my knees. I have pictures of myself covered in dust.

In 1990, though, I decided to buy a flamenco dress. I took some dancing lessons too. On the Monday evening before we left El Rocío to go back to Seville, there was a big party with soup, sangria and dancing, so I wore my dress for that. You should have seen the faces of the drivers. “Look at her! María! It’s María!” They couldn’t believe it.

Pretty soon after I’d put the dress on, though, people started calling me over – “¡Venga! ¡Venga!” – because there was a newborn calf that had to be baptised. They brought the calf over in their arms, because they know I take pictures of everything, and put it on the table, with a bottle of manzanilla sherry. I was on the wrong side of the table, so I had to clamber underneath and come up on the other side. My dress was almost ruined – but I got the pictures I wanted.

Marrie Bot



‘I was not allowed to go to art school’ … Marrie Bot. Photograph: Marrie Bot

Born: Bergambacht, Holland, 1946.
Trained: “At 17 I was not allowed to go to art school, so I worked as a graphic designer. I took evening classes in drawing and (staged) photography at the Free Academy, The Hague, and taught myself documentary photography.”
Influences: Henri Cartier-Bresson, Eugene Smith, Walker Evans, Bruce Davidson and the location paintings of the 17th century and impressionists.
High Point: “Being adopted in 1980 by the Rocío-Triana families as one of their own. And being given the Dr AH Heineken prize for the arts in 1990, as well as all the grants I have received from the Dutch Arts Council.”
Low point: “I always like to forget trouble as soon as possible.”
Top tip: “Be involved with the people you photograph and show them the pictures you make of them, so they trust you.”

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Pope Francis announces five new cardinals, including first from Mali | World news

Pope Francis gave the Catholic church five new cardinals Wednesday, sombrery instructing them to act as servants and not “princes” in a world where innocents are dying from wars and terrorism, slavery persists and refugee camps often are living hells.

Reflecting Francis’ attention to the poor, three of the five cardinals hail from developing nations and regions: Bishop Louis-Marie Ling Mangkhanekhoun of Laos; Bamako Archbishop Jean Zerbo of Mali; and Monsignor Gregorio Rosa Chavez, who continued working as a parish priest while serving as San Salvador’s auxiliary bishop.

The other two elevated churchmen are Barcelona Archbishop Juan Jose Omella, who early in his clerical career worked as a missionary in Zaire; and Stockholm Bishop Anders Arborelius. The Swedish prelate last year welcomed Francis to his country, where Lutherans are the majority Christian group.

Cardinals are often referred to as “princes of the church,” a reflection of their prestigious roles of advising the pope and electing his successor, as well as their often-ornate residences.

But Francis in his homily told the five new cardinals that Jesus “has not called you to become ‘princes’ in the Church,” but instead chose them to serve God and people.

Some media had speculated that Zerbo, Mali’s first-ever cardinal, would not show up for the ceremony or even be made cardinal after European news media recently reported that he was one three Mali prelates who had multi-million euro Swiss bank-accounts.

If Francis was upset by the reports, it did not show when he placed the prestigious red biretta, the square, three-ridged hat cardinals wear, on Zerbo’s head.
As he did with the other four cardinals, Francis gave the African prelate a fraternal embrace and said a few words to him.

Francis, an Argentine and the first Jesuit pope, told his newest cardinals to be focused on the suffering in the world.

“The reality is the innocent who suffer and die as victims of wars and terrorism; the forms of enslavement that continue to violate human dignity even in the age of human rights,” he said.

The pope also spoke of refugee camps “which at times seem more like a hell than a purgatory,” and decried what he called “the systematic discarding of all that is no longer useful, people included.”

Chavez, who heads the Latin American division of Caritas, a Catholic charity, had worked closely with Salvadoran Archbishop Oscar Romero, who while celebrating mass was shot dead in 1980 by a right-wing death squad during El Salvador’s civil war.

Zerbo has worked for reconciliation in Mali, an impoverished country bloodied by Islamist extremism and where Muslims constitute the predominant religious majority. “There is such violence in the world, what we need is brotherhood,” Zerbo said as well-wishers waited to greet him after the ceremony.

But as the cardinal-making ceremony neared, his reputation as a peacemaker was overshadowed by news reports that 12 million euros ($13.5 million) were held in Swiss bank accounts in the names of Zerbo and two other top-ranking Catholic churchman from Mali.

Vatican officials have said it is common for bishops working in unstable countries to deposit church funds in either the Vatican or European banks.

Francis accompanied his five new cardinals to the monastery on Vatican grounds where his predecessor, Benedict XVI, who retired in 2013, lives. “We were happy to meet” with Benedict, said the new cardinal from Laos.

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