A curious tale of how one monk’s devotion led him to build a cathedral out of scrap. Matthew Bremner tells his story with delicacy and respect.
Throughout the late 90s and early 2000s, Justo’s feverish devotion emerged as something more than just eccentricity. The cathedral was becoming more significant than any of the locals could have imagined, and Justo passed from madman to genius.
An ode to some of the world’s most misunderstood urban spaces:
Ever since ancient Uruk, the world’s first major city, founded around 4000 BC in what is now Iraq, alleys have served as a borderland between private and public life. Uruk’s covered lanes, no more than eight feet wide, offered respite from the sun when residents walked to the temple, as well as a space to escape from tiny windowless homes. A place to meet and make mischief, tucked away from the plazas where power and privilege reigned, these were sites where urban ideals collided with human desire.
That would never change. Even as the back alley shifted form and function, inspiring local variants in every urban culture — the “castra” alleyways in Roman fortress towns, the hutongs of Beijing, the terraced lanes of Istanbul with howling packs of dogs — it stayed the city’s unofficial social laboratory. The lower and middle classes of early modern Seoul defied a rigid caste system in narrow Pimagol: “Avoid-Horse-Streets” where nobles couldn’t ride. The alley coffeehouses of 17th century London fueled a newly democratic culture of ideas—a space, as poet and satirist Samuel Butler observed, where “gentleman, mechanic, lord and scoundrel mix, and are all of a piece.”
“Julia Child’s collaborator Simone Beck has lingered as an object of pity in public memory. But maybe Beck didn’t want stardom at all.”
“For all these reasons—the socialization we receive as kids, as well as emotional restraint, homophobia, experiences of betrayal, and many others—many men stop confiding in each other, trusting each other, supporting each other, and expressing emotion around each other.”
“In Kashechewan, the effects of the residential schools are hard to avoid. You see them in the eight-year-olds who scan the dirt roads looking for cigarette butts to smoke. You see them in Kristal, asking me if I want to accompany her to an empty house to watch porn.”
It’s hard to imagine how truly full of dentists Los Algodones is. It’s like trying to imagine a city full of piano movers. They are, quite literally, everywhere. Memories of inconveniently scheduled cleanings quake in the face of the omnipresent availability, the frantic, logicless convenience.
The fight for female superheroes in Hollywood.”
“Why, a decade ago, did my father give me the heavy gift of a controversial 100-year-old Oswald Spengler tome? It took a pandemic for me to find out.”
“Transforming craft into an act of protest against indifference, against the lack of willpower to reverse or address a societal ill, is something that Mexican women, and women around the world, are familiar with.”