Cathedrals of Trash

They say one man’s trash is another’s treasure and that seems to be the case for two men who are making cathedrals out of trash.

Justo Martinez of Madrid, Spain (who goes by Don Justo) has spent the last 50 years building a cathedral made of junk. He salvaged local materials and the cathedral now stands an impressive 131 feet tall, despite his having no formal drawings for the structure. Don Justo was a Benedictine monk, but had to leave the monastery years ago when he contracted tuberculosis – 50 years ago to be exact. Since leaving, Don Justo has been working on his masterpiece, based on St. Peter’s Cathedral, using his own land and own money. All that is left o add is a few windows, a roof, and permits.

However, Don Justo is not alone in his trash cathedral building. Vince Hannemann, of Austin, Texas, has also been building a cathedral made of junk. It is invisible from the street, but resides in Hannemann’s backyard in a suburban area. Hannemann didn’t build his cathedral because he’s trying to prove a green point or because he wanted attention. According to him, he built it “because it was kinda cool.” He calls the cathedral, which he began building in 1988, his “clubhouse.” Right now, he estimates that it contains about 60 tons of junk, including bumpers, bottles, kitchen utensils, wheels, cables, boards, parts of bicycles, and other – well, trash.

Where does Hannemann get all his junk? He says a lot of it is brought to him by people. However, he doesn’t use everything brought to him because some things “don’t fit in.” At the heart of his cathedral is the “Thorne Room,” complete with a chair where Vince often sits.

While some people love Hannemann’s creation, the people in the townhome complex behind him can see the cathedral and have complained to the city. But, the city inspectors have studied it and it is sturdy. Hannemann did tear down his “Pyramid of TVs,” after an engineer told him the 200 TVs were less of a pyramid and more of a pile. It was replaced by a “zen garden of TVs.”

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Libby Pelham

About Libby Pelham

I have always loved to write and gives me the opportunity to share my passion for writing with others. I work full-time as a web developer at UTHSC and most of my other time is spent with my son (born 2004). I love everything pop culture, but also enjoy writing about green living (it has opened my eyes to many things!) and health (got to worry about that as you get older!).