Looking up at the image above, you may be wondering what this large piece of artwork is. This artwork is known as a place called “The Palais Ideal” (Ideal Palace), also known as the Postman’s Palace. This beautiful four-sided castle is made from limestone, cement, stones, and wire. In 1879, it was built in Hauterives, France by a man named Ferdinand Cheval. Ferdinand “Postman” Cheval was born in 1836 in the French commune of Charmes-sur-Herbasse. Cheval had received a minimal amount of formal education. At the age of thirteen he dropped out of school to become a baker’s apprentice, but he ended up becoming a postman instead. This is where his nickname Postman Cheval came from.
So you may be wondering how did an ordinary man like him built such a magnificent creation. It began in 1864 after Cheval had a dream about building the Palais Ideal. But he never shared this with anyone, because he was afraid of the thought of being laughed at. So fifth teen years after this he had nearly forgotten this dream. Until one day in April 1879 while he was on his regular mail routine and he tripped on a stone. So Cheval stopped to examine the oddly shaped stone, which he found interesting and decided to keep it. The next day he went back to the same spot and found some more unique stones that he took back home. From this day forward, Cheval began a 27 year period of collecting stones. Cheval would carry these stones in his pants pockets, until his wife started complaining of his pants become worn from the weight of the rocks. So he decided to start using a basket, but since the stones weighed so much he had to use a new strategy. That’s when Cheval began to start using a wheelbarrow. For the next thirty years Cheval’s wheelbarrow would become a big contribution to building his magical garden. To complete his project he would go on his regular mail route and any stone he saw along the way, he would mark them so he could come back to find them. Then after his rounds he would return with his wheelbarrow to pick up the stones that he marked. Every stone he collected would become step closer to his dream coming to life.
Cheval quoted “Since Nature provided me with sculptures I shall become an architect and a mason (besides who isn’t a bit of a mason?). While tramping I thought of Napoleon who said the word ‘impossible’ does not or should not exist. Since then I agree with him. The word impossible no longer exists.” With this quote and these rocks of varied and unique shape would inspire Cheval to create his “fairytale- like palace”, the Palais Ideal. Cheval devoted 33 years of his life to build his dream palace.
“Palais Ideal.” PBS.com, 2016 www.pbs.org/independentlens/offthemap/html/travelogue_artist_4.htm?true. Accessed on 11 Oct. 2016
Mitchell, Beverley. “Postman builds incredible palace from thousands of pebbles in Southeast France.” inhabitat, inhabitat.com/le-palais-ideal-industrious-postman-builds-a-palace-of-pebbles-in-south-east-france/. Accessed on 11 Oct. 2016
Kavshik. “The Postman Who Built a Palace With Stones Collected Over 33 Years.” Amusing Planet, 22 May. 2011, www.amusingplanet.com/2011/05/postman-who-built-palace-with-stones.html.
Links for further research:
The link above directs you the Palais Ideal website which gives you the history, videos/pictures, and tour dates of the palace.
The link above provides a brief history, Google map of the location, and pictures of the Ideal Palace.
The link above provides a video that gives a tour of the palace while giving you a brief history along with the tour.