miércoles, 12 de mayo de 2021


Text and Photos : José Manuel Serrano Esparza 


Born in Los Santos de Maimona (Badajoz) and a Cordoban by adoption, the mythical Antonio Sastre Candelario, a top-notch mason who spent most of his life in Cerro Muriano (Córdoba), was a one of a kind, unforgettable and genuine person, with his virtues and defects, including a strong character. 

He was also a man infatuated with the countryside, its landscapes, its most hidden places and its fauna, to such an extent that he was able to read and discern the paths left by different species of animals, in addition to identifying by ear the sound produced by different kinds of birds. 

A remarkable human being featuring a huge working ability, great physical strength and weariness resistance, in love with his trade and always unwaveringly going out of his way to help his friends, among whom always was his beloved Luis Gómez Parra.

Antonio Sastre Candelario was a man for whom the given word and the sincere friendship had more value than any type of written contract or all the gold of Fort Knox (Kentucky). 


Cerro Muriano (Córdoba, Spain) had always good masons and Antonio Sastre Candelario was the reference-class one of them all, a man devoted to his work, humble, with a great heart and fleeing any sort of showing off.

In spite of it, he gained the respect of everybody since sixties and had always a lot of influence in the village, as well as being highly appreciated by its inhabitants, thanks to his wise advice, his exceedingly deep knowledge and experience in masonry and a very special sense of humour in symbiosis with an innate unselfishness making him to altruistically be always ready to help any inhabitant of Cerro Muriano who needed it.

However incredible it may seem, Antonio Sastre Candelario built by himself, with his own hands, throughout sixties, seventies, eighties and nineties many of the houses nowadays existing in Cerro Muriano, constatntly generating an unutterable astonishment among all the people who had the chance of meeting him.

Therefore, inevitably a question arises :

Where did the huge energy and passion always put by this man in everything he made stem from?

How did he manage to reach that level of perfection on building dwellings, in addition to being a consummate specialist in the refurbishment and improvement of already existing houses?

How was he able to acquire such an amazing knowldge on construction materials ? 

How was possible that Antonio Sastre Candelario put the same standard of commitment, devotion and painstaking care on anybody trusting him to hire his services to build their houses, both if they were normal persons or fairly wealthy ones ?

How a man who wasn´t an architect and couldn´t go to university on belonging to a humble family was able to do any kind of work related to the construction of a high level house boasting outstanding durability in time and also excellent remodellings of already existing abodes? 

The answer is simultaneously easy and complex : 

Antonio Sastre Candelario wrote with golden letters one of the most beautiful pages in the History of Cerro Muriano (Córdoba) during his great professional career as a top level mason.

Because Antonio Sastre Candelario was PhD. Summa Cum Laude at the School of Life.

This endearing man, gifted with a great manual skill and oozing a strong personality, was deeply in love with his work as a mason, for which he had felt a boundless passion since his early childhood. 

And the driving force of such exceptional insight, expertise and intuition in the masonry that he developed during his whole existence, until achieving truly praiseworthy heights, was something inherently linked to the historical evolution of Cerro Muriano after the Spanish Civil War, embodied by many of his most well-known inhabitants : the perseverance and strenuous effort as a result of necessity. 

Antonio Sastre Candelario was invariably, first and foremost, a self-made man with self-teaching background. 

Masonry flame ignited his soul when he was very young, and it was then, during fifties, when with the enormous fighting spirit, tenacity, unflinching eagerness to learn and exceptional will power that always distinguished him, he decided to strive upon becoming a magician of it, utterly cognizant that it isn´t something that can be learnt overnight. 

From that moment on, Antonio Sastre Candelario distinctly perceives that masonry is a very old craft, fundamental in construction and requiring intensive training and discipline to be able to do all the activities it integrates. 

He likewise becomes fascinated by the seminal historical significance of masonry in the History of mankind and the raft of efforts that human beings had to implement to make them evolve. 

Moreover, he grasps that it is an art needing to have good knowledge on other auxiliary disciplines like mathematics, geometry, physics, etc, which he begins to study by himself in books from different publishers of the time, as well as starting out in the understanding and assimilation of the concept of depiction systems with plants, elevation, section and so forth, to grasp both how the structure must be done and to place the spaces where doors and windowns will go. 

He also begins to delve into the handling of scales making feasible to gauge in the plans the elements of the houses he will build in future and that he begins to envisage in his prodigious mind, steadily bustling, giving priority to simple geometrical figures that will be vital in the laying outs again of points, straight lines, parallel straight lines, etc, to be able to subsequently tackle more complex challenges. 

Because Antonio Sastre Candelario always dealt with new feats within the scope of masonry, which he raised to the category of science after many years of strenuous effort and commitment, by means of a myriad of tricks of his own and the huge experienced he gleaned with years, until mastering many different things, among them the art of trowel and to flawlessly do a stairs. 

Furthermore, he felt a huge pride for his trade of mason, proclaiming that however advanced may be the systems and technologies used in a work, there will always be good masons whose labour will have a great importance in the constructive dynamics and will help other occupations. 

This way, little by little, with scarce werewithal of his own and under very hard conditions, Antonio Sastre Candelario turned from early sixties into a magician of masonry, displaying impressive know-how regarding the main properties and applications of the most used materials in construction, including the making of different types of mortars and concretes, in synergy with his knowledge on earthworks, foundations, marking out the ground plans of structures, etc. 

Additionally, he was throughout his entire life a man with great discipline, constant desire for self-improvement and an unflinching sense of order and cleanliness in every work he did, standing out for the accuracy and thoroughness with which he finished his assignments, punctually fulfilling the delivery terms, since he was a tremendously vocational mason, able to adapt to any circumstance, thanks to his proved creativity and mastery, with a laudable personalized attention to each customer.

On the other hand, his admiration for architecture since his teenage years made him intensely study the properties of the different kinds of materials used in the making of the inner divisions of houses and their functions, being able to identify and select the most suitable materials according to the aim of each type of division, including the best possible bricks and plasterboard, sagely chosen by him and with which he optimized the various types of inner and outer finishings. 

Besides, Antonio Sastre Candelario was an outstanding expert knowing all the tools and machinery of masonry scope, which he used with great prowess, because he was always a man imbued with handcrafted mentality in everything he did, as well as having excellent pulse and precision.

It all in synergy with the aforementioned aspects, his deep knowledge on the most usual covering materials depending on the slope of the cover and the different trades taking part in its development, along with his immense expertise regarding the auxiliary materials of masonry like the sand and gravel for mortar, lime, plaster, water, concrete, etc, as well as the mixtures, additives, cement hardening and so forth. 

Needless to say that brick was never something inert for Antonio Sastre Candelario but an entity with life of his own whom he deemed a loyal friend and a built-in part of him, being able to recognize all of its types, rough and living ones alike. 

And he always expressed his conviction that the true good mason must have a comprehensive proficiency of the whole trade of building a house and that masonry isn´t a repetitive labour at all, that every day something new is learnt and tasks to be made in each dwelling are different. 

This modus operandi brought about that one of Antonio Sastre Candelario´s most noticeable qualities during his long professional trajectory of more than 50 years was his unrestrained creativity and imagination, which enabled him to successfully deal with many different works, developing distinguishing skills according to the old adage ´ Practice Makes The Master ´, in addition to being highly efficient and productive with his talent for numbers, the painstaking attention to detail, the accurate taking of measures, the very exhaustive quality control, the calculation of angles and directions, the correct use and maintenance of tools and machines, the knowledge of techniques for the construction of partition walls with bricks, stones or concrete blocks, along with the unfolding of scores of tricks and secrets of his own. 


From early nineties, Antonio Sastre Candelario´s great experience, knowledge and intuition in the field of masonry make him understand that his way of working and his world are going to turn into a very small market niche. 

Because of necessity, this man had to become a genius of masonry from early fifties, with a very classic and all-round operating method which allowed him to do a number of things by himself and at a great level to reduce cost as much as possible without dropping quality, not only in the sphere of masonry, but also in other disciplines related with the ancient masonry in which the different trades performing a role in construction weren´t very differentiated, so Antonio Sastre Candelario had to often make functions of mason, plumber, roofer, maker of mortars, designer, workman, assistant, second officer, first officer, foreman, construction manager, foundations expert, forger, framer, electrician and so on.

Therefore, he did realize that times evolve and the digital revolution with its assisted design and advanced management of projects 2D and 3D softwares, together with a comprehensive range of new tools and materials, would spawn a different kind of works for both private and communal dwellings, in which team labour and a maximum degree of differentiation among the various trades taking a part in the building and its specialties would be key factors in XXI Century.

Very old studio photograph of Antonio Sastre Candelario with his parents during his military service, being only 19 years old. His countenance already shows the great nobility and strong personality that always ruled his existence.

But the remembrance of this fascinating man, who learned his trade doing it and sweating buckets is not going to disappear.

The people of Cerro Muriano remembers him with a lot of affection and he left them the legacy of the many houses that he left them all over the village, with very few means, in an utterly handcrafted way, doing almost everything by himself, with a bombproof honesty along with a passion and love for masonry that set a very high standard in this professional domain throughout one of its most glorious periods, without forgeting the huge human quality of this timeless human being who left an indelible imprint in everyone who knew him.