A French Postman Who Alone Built Whole Palace in 33 Years – Ferdinand Cheval

French Postman Cheval
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French Postman Cheval

A human being, such a complex creation. sometimes we are so easy to understand and sometimes, we can be the most complex. Quite different from other creations of this planet. We can think good and bad. We can see dreams and chase our dreams as well. How our craving to fulfill our dream takes us on the ride which looks impossible at first sight, but the taste of fulfilling our dreams encourages us to follow that path. Recently I visited one of the single man-made palaces in one of the French villages

A dream of a person, “Palace Ideal”. After visiting that place, I could start realizing the power of human thought and dreams. French man FERDINAND CHEVAL KNOWN AS POSTMAN CHEVAL (FROM 1836 TO 1924) not just followed his dream but presented an extraordinary example of art for the next generations.

Background Story

I was walking very fast when my foot caught on something that sent me stumbling a few meters away, I wanted to know the cause. In a dream I had built a palace, a castle or caves, I cannot express it well. I told no one about it for fear of being ridiculed and I felt ridiculous myself. Then fifteen years later, when I had almost forgotten my dream when I wasn’t thinking of it at all, my foot reminded me of it.

My foot tripped on a stone that almost made me fall. I wanted to know what it was. It was a stone of such a strange shape that I put it in my pocket to admire it at my ease. The next day, I went back to the same place. I found more stones, even more beautiful, I gathered them together on the spot and was overcome with delight. It’s a sandstone shaped by water and hardened by the power of time. It becomes as hard as pebbles. It represents a sculpture so strange that it is impossible for man to imitate, it represents any kind of animal, any kind of caricature. 

I said to myself, since Nature is willing to do the sculpture, I will do the masonry and the architecture. 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. 

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

Cheval’s Palais idéal_During_Construction

His story is easily accessible in the palace museum

A Palace of Dream

By clearing the narrow lanes when I reached the palace, my first reaction was not at all good. I found this place not worthy to visit, at first sight. I found this palace is a combination of big and small stones which somehow linked together. But as I spent more time, I started to imagine Chavel’s dream. How one-man could build such a gigantic palace which is not at all possible without the extraordinary motivation of fulfilling the dreams.

He included everyone in his dream, that’s why there is a place for every religion in his palace. This palace is open in all four sides and each side is equally beautiful. One small template is given to every visitor which includes interesting information about the palace in detail. To appreciate the work one must keep in mind that this palace is a 33 years work of a single man who dared to dream impossible and achieved his dream by dedication.

Cheval’s Palais idéal Different Angles


This palace doesn’t follow any modern or ancient architecture. It is unique in itself. Small and big Stones joined together by lime. These stones are very irregular in shapes. In the entrance, going through the Mosque, we can read a poem from 1904 dedicated to Ferdinand by a Grenoble writer named Emile Roux-Parassac also known as the Alpine Bard. In his poem, speaking of the palace, he wrote :

This is art, this is a dream, this is energy
Then, in a burst of enthusiasm :
our Palace, with its superb Ideal
Deeply touched, Ferdinand took the name of the monument from this passage: “The Ideal Palace”.

It has many corners dedicated to various religions like Christian, Islam, Hindu, Egyptian. Hindu Temple whose interior is a real cave, and this cave forms several small ones and in these small caves, he placed the fossils which he had found in the earth. The entrance is guarded by a group of animals such as a bear, a boa, a crocodile, a lion, an elephant and other animals of this kind always found in the earth, and also tree trunks. In terms of architecture, it’s the only example of Naïve Art. The Naïve Art is a trifling phenomenon, known by everyone, although there is no architecture.

The Place for all the religions. The Red rectangle is the Hindu Temple and the blue rectangle is the Swiss chalet
The starting point: the unusually-shaped stone that Cheval tripped over
Animal Sculptures 


Just before 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 collage belongs to the Peggy Guggenheim Collection and is on display there. In 1958, Ado Kyrou produced Le Palais idéal, a short film about Cheval’s palace. The Palace welcomed 175,000 visitors from all over the world.


There is no need to write anything in the conclusion as this template in the image below speaks a lot itself. A work of one man is enough to appreciate the palace ideal. It gives immense motivation to people who are behind achieving their goals.   

Work of a Single Man




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