Thursday, May 01, 2008


Many times ago I saw in a magazine a reportage about the French postman Ferdinand Cheval and his Ideal Palace. I was enchanted with the talent and perseverance of this man. I never forgotten him and his remarkable masterpiece. Cheval was forty-three years old when he started the foundation of the Ideal Palace, in 1879. Working alone for thirty-three years, he built a fairy-tale palace. Really, he was a remarkable men!

Ferdinand Cheval was also a poet and his writings are chiseled all over the tunnels, sculptures and facades of the Palace. In the tunnel he wrote: "In creating this rock, I wanted to prove what the will can do."

Ideal Palace in the village of Hauterives, in the Rhône Valley, France. Photo by Wikipedia

Ferdinand Cheval (1836 – 19 August 1924), was a French postman (facteur in French) who spent 33 years of his life building an "Ideal Palace" (in French Palais Idéal) which 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. He wasn't a mason and not an architect. (Você pode ler sua história em Português, AQUI)

A four-sided castle made from concrete, lime and wire, located in Hauterives, France.


One day, at the age of 43, French postman Ferdinand Cheval tripped over a stone when he was out walking. He was so inspired by that beautiful stone that he went back the next day and began collecting stones. From this day forward, Cheval embarked on a 27-year period of collecting stones. At first, Cheval carried the stones home in his pants pockets, later he used baskets and finally Cheval acquired a wheelbarrow. He scoured the countryside for days and nights at a time on his mail route, sleeping in farmhouses and under the stars. He stock-piled the stones he brought back in his yard, which convinced his neighbors that he had gone mad, but he was determined to build the castle and grottoes that had populated his dreams 15 years earlier.


Cheval was a mailman by day and an architect by night, building his palace of stones and intricately carved concrete with no assistance from anyone. It took him 34 years of continuous toil to finish his castle, which many sculptures of gods, temples, animals, pilgrims, fountains and towers. The monument's structure is 26 meters long by 14 meters wide and up to 10 meters high, with internal passages lined with sea shells and external stairs and walkways. Cheval bound the stones together with lime, mortar and cement. It is covered with inscriptions of all sorts. An inscription in the north east corner states "10,000 days, 9300 hours , 33 years of toil".

Photo by Claude Travels

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 cemetery of Hauterives. Cheval died on August 19, 1924, aged 88, around a year after he had finished building it, and is buried there. (I wrote this post with information by Kristin Fiore, from the site dedicated to the Ideal Palace, the Sad Tomato's , Wikipedia, Official Website and Motorhome and Away .

Photo by Claude Travels

In his autobiography, Cheval wrote that his idea for the monument originated in a dream. Cheval told no one about his dream, afraid he would be ridiculed.

Photo by Claude Travels

Just prior to his death, Cheval began to receive some recognition from luminaries like André Breton and Pablo Picasso. In 1969, André Malraux the Minister of Culture, declared the Palace as a cultural landmark and had it officially protected.

Facade East, photo by Wikipedia

The signs on the right read "Travail d'un seul homme" (Work of only one man) and "Défense de rien toucher" (It is prohibited to touch anything).

Photo by imageshack

Details facade Nort. Photo by Wikipedia

Photo by Claude Travels

The miniature buildings on the west facade, including a Hindu Temple, Swiss Chalet, Maison Carree in Algiers and a medieval chateau. Photo by Kristen Fiori.

Photo by Claude Travels

The three giants of the east facade. Photo by Gerard Therin

Terrace tower on the south end. Photo by Kristin Fiori

The Arabian mosque on the west side. The sign over the door says, "Entrance to an imaginary palace." Photo by Kristin Fiori.

The east facade, with the three giants on the left and the Egyptian monument on the right. Photo by Kristin Fiori.

Video: Postman Cheval's Ideal Palace
The work of only one man


  1. Oh Thanks Sonia for all these beautiful and interesting photos. I know this place but I have never visited it. My Parent yes and that is an extraordinary place and a famous and wonderful palace. Thanks to Ferdinand Cheval !

  2. Hi Sonia,
    What a beautiful palace. I enjoyed seeing all the photos and reading the interesting story of Cheval.
    It must be amazing to see it in person!

  3. whoa, how nutty? It looks vaguely Indoneasian, or as if it were made of mud.
    I think the building looks great in a jungle-like location. Interesting!

  4. Oh my gosh..I've never seen this! I'm so glad you shared it!!! simply amazing! ...and Flora looks so happy on such a gorgous walk- happy times :))

  5. Hauterives isn't that far from Menton. I wonder if Jilly has been to "The Ideal Palace."

    Nice post, Sonia.

  6. Considering he wasn't a mason the sculpturing is fantastic. It would be an amazing place to see in person to get a true perspective and appreciation of the amount of love and labor that went into this work of art. Thanks for all the wonderful photos - I had never heard of this before.

  7. Sonia, this is wonderful! Had I known about it before our trip to Europe in 2006, I might have tried to go and see it. Thanks for posting about it, with so many great photos!

  8. Sonia, que beleza de post, admiro as pessoas que lutam para transformar seus sonhos (no caso dele é literalmente um sonho) em realidade. Parece mesmo um castelo de mil e uma noites.
    Não conhecia ainda, quando for a esta região vou procurar conhecer, obrigada pela dica.
    Beijos e uma boa semana para você.

  9. what a fantastic place and structure. thanks for shared

  10. Sonia,

    realmente incrível esse senhor! E o resultado do seu trabalho! Já havia visto na TV um documentário...e é inacreditaveL.
    Linda e competente postagem. Parabéns!

  11. Yes, I know about it and visited it many years ago! Fantastic and unbelievable! I'm so happy to see your interest in it! I feel it's really time that you decide for a visit to France! So... when?

  12. Sonia, ora cá está mais um motivo e pretexto para que cada vez mais faça de França um dos meus destinos de eleição!
    Muito belas as imagens e a descrição que você faz da obra de um visionário.

  13. Great isn't it? Le Facteur Cheval is very well known in France. I think he found his postman's life a bit narrow, with all these wonders in his mind...

  14. Hi, Sonia, na perseverança no dia o carteiro levava os sonhos e a noite os reunia. Muito bacana essa sua pesquisa. Li uma vez num estudo que aquele carrinho era a única ferramenta dele.
    beijos. boa semana

  15. Wonderful shots!
    Thank you for your visit !

  16. Fine rock works and excellent photos.

  17. Sonia

    Você adivinhou, adorei esta postagem sua.

    Para dizer a verdade eu nunca havia ouvido falar neste palácio. E muito menos no seu construtor.

    É simplismente fantástico.

    Obrigado pela visita, e fico contente que tenha gostado do novo visual.

  18. Sonia que coisa maluca e legal, eu diria! Um ideal, uma brincadeira e um sonho... Muito legal!

  19. Sonia querida, meu tempo teem sido bem curto..mas c� estou ...encantada e surpresa com a sua postagem...este lugar � de sonho Eduardo e eu estivemos l� h� 4 anos ... foi das coisas mais impressionantes que j� vimos pode imaginar que com arquiteto ele ficou absolutamente fascinado ..� diferente de tudo o que j� se viu..uma hist�ria em cada pedra e detalhe..imperd�vel que bo que vc o achou e trouxe para n� grande beijo e dia {;}}

  20. Hi, Sonia, excellent work you did to show us this extraordinary place product of the dreams and will of this great man, sure its most inspiring!

  21. amazing people, amazing ideas! great that you shared this!

  22. How wonderful and the dream achieved, a wonderful man with a message, live your dream...

    The headerwas photogaphed by a man who's last name is the same as my grandmother's maiden name "Therin", not a common name, she was from Brittany, France.

    Have a wonderful week Sonia

  23. Estou preplexa!! Nunca vi coisa mais linda! Porque é que eu não conhecia esta obra?

  24. Não conhecia este palácio, mas fiquei encantada com as informações que você forneceu e com as fotos. Obrigada por partilhar!

  25. Sonia, estou extasiada, que linda obra e que belo post. Nunca vi nada igual, nem em fotos. Adorei ampliar os meus conhecimentos através de seu delicioso blog. É um sonho!


  26. Sonia, eu desconhecia a existência desse MARAVILHOSO Palácio! Um verdadeiro espetáculo, além do exemplo de perseverança, trabalho e crença nos próprios sonhos, de Ferdinand Cheval.

  27. What an incredibel piece of engineering! And all the work of only one man.... hardly believable! I should love to visit this place in person. Most exraordinary, and thank you so much for sharing these photos, I did not know that such an interesting place existed in Frence.

  28. Linda a música. Deixei no seu blog enquanto fazia outras coisas, e não cansei de ouvir! Parabéns!
    E o que me diz desse trabalho? Quem quer faz, quem não quer manda! Dizia meu velho pai!O artista do seu post é um belo exemplo!


  29. Ferdinand Cheval, o seu Palácio Ideal e a tenacidade de um homem que é um exemplo de vida.
    Belíssimas fotos para as quais não posso deixar de ensinar o caminho.

    Vou daqui emocionado, Sonia.

  30. Wow, we really can accomplish anything if we just put our all into it. This guy serves as such a great example of following through, hard work paying off and living your dream.

  31. Awesome!!! Amei Sonia... castelos e arte... uma combinação perfeita, você nos brindando sempre com estas descobertas. Feliz Dia das Mães para você! Com carinho,

  32. Quel beau travail vous avez réalisé !
    J'aime beaucoup les peinture de cet artiste .
    J'aime surtout sa devise :
    "...En créant ce rocher ,j'ai voulu prouver ce que peut faire la volonté ! "

  33. This is quite amazing Sonia. It makes the work of our Helen Martin, at the Owl House, Nieu Bethesda pale into insignificance. Though she was also quite an eccentric.
    Seems unreal that someone could become so obsessed with building such a structure.

  34. thanks for this wonderful and fascinating post!

  35. Sonia,
    estou sem palavras...
    muito emocionada com todos esses trabalhos.
    lindo, simplesmente lindo, uma história de vida singular.

    E a escolha desta música!!! suave e de tocar o coração.


    JU Gioli

  36. Oh my Sonia!! This is so amazing!! I have never heard of this before or seen it. It would be wonderful to see this in person!! It is truly amazing that one man did all this work! Just shows what we can do when we make up our minds to do it! Awesome! Thanks for sharing this!

    I loved the pictures of Flora!! So cute and the water is so pretty!

  37. Eis o post ideal para eu ler quando passei parte da tarde a perguntar-me se faço bem em apostar na aprendizagem dos tais programas gráficos.Às vezes parece que não tem mais sentido, que não vou chegar ao fim disto, que não vou conseguir ser boa profissional, que já vou muito tarde.Mas é preciso é ter um sonho,trabalhar para ele, não desistir.Eu já tinha visto fotos mais pequenas,estas são óptimas.E a música, Satie, adoro Satie...Acho que vou daqui mais animada!

  38. Beyond words, Sonia! Awesome! I really enjoyed this post and I say Bravo to Ferdinand Cheval!

  39. Truly amazing ... what a story and what beautiful photos!! Thank you for this post!

  40. This is FANTASTIC Sonia...! What an amazing thing this man did....I couldn't help but think of The Watts Towers, here in L.A. Also built by one man, NOT an Architect...from all found materials...
    This Palace is an astounding [iece of work...He was such an ARTIST! It is incredibly inspiring, isn't it?
    Thank you for this Spnia. I have never heard of this before, and I just LOVE the whole look of it and especially found the "detail" Pictures absolutely THRILLING!
    For some reason the Video was not there for me...Something was there but it never did anything. I will have to find it on the Net!

    Sorry I haven't been here for DAYS and DAYS....I have been very involved in taking Hundreds---Well, Thousands of pictures of this Hawks Nest...Every day I am following the Babys, etc....Then I have to look at all of them and work with them...So, I just haven't been anywhere hardly....Time has just gotten away from me...! I'm so glad I got here today, my dear. THIS was a real treat, in every way.

  41. What an amazing structure and story, I love the shots of Flora, what a beautiful place she has to go walking with her best friend, Ranger would love to run on the beach with Flora. Ranger and Lloyd.

  42. Very interesting post. What an amazing place!

  43. How interesting and beautiful. It looks almost like a miniature Angkor Wat of Cambodia.

  44. I had never heard of this person or the palace he built. What a legacy he left for the world. In L.A. we have the Watts Towers--nothing as complex as what you have shared, but it is pretty amazing to see.

  45. Thank you for sharing your knowledge with us, and those photos are unbelievable and amazing!

  46. Sonia querida, como sempre as imagens postadas por você, são de tirar o fôlego.
    Querida, desejo à você um lindo e feliz dia das mães. Que o seu dia seja de muita alegria ao lado dos seus amores.
    Um beijo, esse muito especial.

  47. That was just a fascinating post. Thank goodness for such talent because we get to just stand and


  48. What a wonderfuk post. The photos are wonderful. Thankyou for sharing

  49. Viva!
    As fotos são engraçadas.
    O meu pobre inglês só deu para perceber que isto é obra de um carteiro francês...
    Feliz final de semana.

  50. Sonia, voltei para curtir mais um pouco. Música e imagem explêndidas.
    Não dá para perder.


    JU gioli

  51. hi, Sonia, excelente idéia do Satie, muito boa mesmo.
    gosto muito, há dias que o deixo tocando o dia inteiro.

  52. Hello Sonia,
    It's a real pleasure to meet Mister Ferdinand Chavel on your blog ! Thank you very much

  53. Sonia, cada vez que venho aqui com esat postagem volto para aquele dias maravilhosos na França...hoje vim para te deixar um grande abraço por este domingo de todas nós...
    Que o seu dia seja só se alegrias com teus filhos..beijos.

  54. Voltei para te desejar um Feliz Dia das Mães!
    Um grande beijo.

  55. I have never heard of this place and now I have one more place to see before I die. What wonderful photos and how strange and exotic was his dream!

  56. Vi que vc achou {;-}}..que bom que gostou ...Mil beijos

  57. Sonia. Eu sou realmente fissurada por este delírio de Cheval, ainda não pude conhecer o Palais Idéal, mas está no roteiro. E quero te convidar para ver meu novo blog o
    um grande abraço

  58. This is what I love about the web and blogs - I'm sure that I would have never known of this extraordinary place with out your thoughtful investigation and post! This is just astounding!

  59. A great collection of a lovely and wonderful place.

    I couldn't resist sharing this blog with others hence included the link in my traveloge

  60. Just to let you know that the sign:
    "Defense de rien toucher" means" it is prohibited to touch nothing" so go head and touch everything which in fact make more sens knowing the Facteur Cheval et si vous vous posez des questions a propos de la traduction; je suis francais. Merci pour cette page dedicacee a Cheval.


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