Postman’s Palace (Video Included)

Ferdinand Cheval

Ferdinand Cheval (born 1836 in Charmes-sur-l’Herbasse, Drôme, France; died 19 August 1924) was a French postman who spent thirty-three years of his life building Le Palais Idéal (the “Ideal Palace”) in Hauterives. It is regarded as an extraordinary example of naïve art architecture.

Ferdinand Cheval lived in Châteauneuf-de-Galaure, in the Drôme département of France. He had left school at the age of 13 to become a baker’s apprentice but eventually became a postman.

Cheval began the building in April 1879. He claimed that he had tripped on a stone and was inspired by its shape. He returned to the same spot the next day and started collecting stones.

For the next thirty-three years, Cheval picked up stones during his daily mail round and carried them home to build the Palais idéal. He spent the first twenty years building the outer walls. At first, he carried the stones in his pockets, then switched to a basket. Eventually, he used a wheelbarrow. He often worked at night, by the light of an oil lamp.


The Palais is a mix of different styles with inspirations from the Bible to Hindu mythology. Cheval bound the stones together with lime, mortar and cement. 33 years of struggle, 10.000 days, 93,000 hours.

Just prior to his death, Cheval began to receive some recognition from luminaries like André Breton and Pablo Picasso. His work is commemorated in an essay by Anaïs Nin. In 1932, the German artist Max Ernst created a collage titled The Postman Cheval. The work belongs to the Peggy Guggenheim Collection and is on display there. In 1958, Ado Kyrou made Le Palais idéal, a short film on Cheval’s palace.


In 1969, André Malraux, the Minister of Culture, declared the Palais a cultural landmark and had it officially protected. It is open every day except Christmas Day and New Year’s Day.

Cheval also wanted to be buried in his palace. However, since that is illegal in France, he proceeded to spend eight more years building a mausoleum for himself in the Hauterives cemetery. He died on August 19, 1924, around a year after he had finished building it, and is buried there.

Learn more in Wikipedia

Wikimedia:- To see more photo’s or larger version of photo’s above.


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7 Responses to Postman’s Palace (Video Included)

  1. malc50 says:

    Crikey, magsx2, where do you find such fascinating stories? Thankyou for another enlightening and entertaining post. Cheers.

  2. gitwizard says:

    Wow! That’s amazing!
    I have cycled 2000k and driven all over the place in France (following Le Tour), but never knew about that.
    Definitely on my visiting list next time i’m down there, thanks for bringing it to my attention.
    When I first saw your picture my first thought was ‘Gaudi – Parc Guell’ but of course it’s quite different.
    Have you visited there yourself ?

    • magsx2 says:

      Hi gitwizard,
      I’m glad I was able to show you something different. Yes I think it would be great to go through this Palace, it is just so different, and of course the amount of not only work but love that went into this building.

      I have never been to France, the closest I have come to actually being in Europe was Turkey, which we spent 3 wonderful weeks there a couple of years ago, and seen as much as was possible in that time.
      So I haven’t had the pleasure but hope to, there is just so much to see, in so many different Countries, being in Australia,
      time is a big factor, it takes such a long time to get to most Countries, that you really need to have plenty of time to see as much as possible. Hubby and I are both into Ancient History, so a lot of our travel has been to the Middle East.
      Here is the offical website for the Palace if you are interested:-

  3. travelrat says:

    I saw these pictures, and immediately thought of the work of Antoni Gaudi, in Barcelona. I wonder if this, consciously or otherwise, inspired him?

    • magsx2 says:

      Hi travelrat,
      For the life of me I couldn’t think who Antoni Gaudi was, knew the name couldn’t place it, so I looked it up, as soon as I saw the unfinished church I remembered straight away, a light came on. 💡 🙂
      I don’t know, maybe he may have seen a drawing of some of the buildings? I don’t think he went too far from France, he states he was a postman for 30 years, he left school at 13, and started the palace at 43 years old. The Palace seems to have a style all it’s own though, I personally feel, he let the stones guide him, no matter where you look, there is something different, it’s just fantastic. I think the inspiration was all his own.

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