A French Jewel – The Palais Idéal Of Facteur Cheval

What on earth is the Palais Idéal? 

The Palais Idéal (the ideal palace) is the name that was given to the majestic art effect built by Joseph Ferdinand Cheval, a mailman who lived in the southeast of France between until early 20th century. This year it’s the 100th anniversary of the completion of this exotic little castle built by one single little man who had big dreams.  Come with me and discover this little wonder of France which is the Palais of Joseph Ferdinand Cheval better known as facteur cheval.

A couple of years ago I had written a post about facteur Cheval (mailman Cheval), and you can check that post right here for extra details about him and his work.

I grew up only about an hour and a half from Hauterives in the Drôme department where Cheval erected his exotic palace.  I appreciated best the second time around as I was older.  This beautiful and unusual construction attracts many tourists from the world over, especially in the summer time, and I am sure that you will enjoy visiting this site if your travels take you in the area.

Who was Joseph Ferdinand Cheval?

Joseph Ferdinand Cheval better known as facteur Cheval would have spent a totally anonymous life if it wasn’t for his dream and vision of a feerique castle.  For 10 years of his life as he was traveling the roads of the Southeast country side of France, every day, he had nothing else to do but get his mind busy with thoughts.  He started to visualize that “palais” (palace) until one day he stumbled on a strange looking stone which he picked up and put in his bag to examine later.

Once he got home he examined the stone and noticed that it looked both beautiful and rare looking.  The next day, he went back to the spot where he found that stone and found more of them.  That was the beginning of the dream taking shape. He started gathering more and more stones, first with bags, and eventually using a dolly.  Every day for over 30 years he was gathering stone on his mailing route by day and building his castle by night.

About the (Palais) Palace

The aspects of the Palais Idéal also called Palais du Facteur Cheval (Palace of mailman Cheval) are many and I am sure you will get a better visual experience if you take a look at the video below, and even more so if you go visit this beautiful building.

Cheval wanted his monument to be an anthem to nature and architecture.  As far as nature is concern, Cheval included a great number of sculpted plants and animals which are part of his ideal palace and as for architecture is concerned he was inspired to include styles taken from the Bible, the Egyptian and Hindu architecture.

The building of the palace started in 1879 and ended in 1912.  Cheval wished to be buried in his castle but according to the regulations of the time it would have been permitted only if he was cremated.  Since in those days cremation was less than unusual (mostly non-existent) in France, he took another eight years to build his tomb of the same style has the palace.

The Construction

The construction didn’t happen overnight. This is was a life time dream which took a life time to come to completion.  When Cheval had gathered enough stones he started with what is call the North Face (la Façade Nord).

To assemble the stones and rocks he used lime, mortar and cement, his own hands, and some basic tools.  There are several signs that are embedded in the building and one of them says as a reminder for generation down the road that is was the “work of one man”.  You can see that sign in the video bellow in French, of course.

The North facade is the one side of the monument that celebrates nature with lots of plants, trees, animals and even 3 giant humans seeming to hold the wall of the facade.

The West facade is more architectural featuring miniature temples such as a Hindu Temple, a Swiss chalet, a middle age castle and a square Algerian house.  On top of these is a huge balcony of basically the whole length of the palace which you have access to by stairs.

On the South facade you can find the caves and many animals such as pelicans, crocodiles, and deers.  The whole thing is a wonderful experience you won’t forget.

In the summer there are Jazz concert in front of the East face of the building.

Take a look at the video and give me your feedbacks.



19 thoughts on “A French Jewel – The Palais Idéal Of Facteur Cheval”

  1. Hi Sylviane

    Wow this is my first time to this blog. It is awesome. I read your “About” page and my first thought was how can you live in the USA when you are French. Now that is coming from someone who lives in Australia and sees France as pure romance 🙂
    I spent quite a bit of time there in the 70s when I was living in England. I have only returned once since about 10 years ago.
    I love so much that is French. Food, wine, clothes and the pure class. Not to mention the beauty within the country.

    This palace is amazing. Just amazing! As an Australian I am always in ore of such buildings.

    Thanks for sharing this with us.

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    1. Hi Sue,

      Thanks you for coming to my French blog. Well, when I moved to France my state of mind was different, now I feel like I want to go back a lot, but I’m trying to build more financial stability first. Then one of my goals is to purchase my childhood house and live there 4-6 months out of the year.

      Thanks for your visit, really appreciated it 🙂

  2. This looks like an amazing place, Sylviane! I am actually of French heritage myself and still have many relatives there. In fact, my paternal grandmother was born in the South of France. I have yet to visit but it’s on my bucket list.Thanks for sharing this unique side of the French culture.

    1. Hi Bob,

      Great new 🙂 I had no idea you had French background, very interesting. Do you know where your grandmother was born? I mean the city’s name?

      Thanks for coming and leaving your feedbacks.

  3. This place is beautiful especially the architecture. Really inspires me to travel to places like these and study the history of the ingenious minds of these people. Will be on my list of places to go to!

    1. Hi Jacob,

      Thanks for coming. Indeed if you find yourself nearby the south of France you’ve got to visit this amazing construction.

  4. I can’t believe that just one man built that entire thing all by himself. As I was reading through what you shared, I love that he was a mailman and was inspired by the stones he found on his route.

    He just goes to show everyone that if you want something bad enough, just do it. Obviously if he could do that on his salary back in that day, imagine what we can achieve today.

    Amazing Sylviane and thanks for sharing this with us.

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    1. Hi Adrienne,

      I’m so glad you made it here to read this story. This man really inspires me. What happened to him shows exactly how the low of attraction works. All day long for a few years he visualized of a castle and one day he tripped on that stone which was the starting point o fit all. A truly amazing story 🙂

      Thanks for coming and have a great wee!

  5. This post has inspired me to travel to France. The architecture there is so beautiful! Thanks for sharing!

    1. Hi Tracey, and welcome here. I love to see new faces.

      If you do travel to France you will love it or so I hope 🙂

      Every Friday I have a new post on this blog, next Friday will be an interview from a German guy talking about France and Germany. I hope you’ll come and enjoy that 🙂

      Thanks for your visit.

  6. What a beautiful story! A mailman noticing stones and built this incredible building.
    What I get from this is that anything is possible, if we have a passion as this an had.
    I loved the video….watched it twice and felt like I was right there.
    Thank you for sharing this. I would love taking a trip there. You are motivating me to that call to action he he.
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    1. Hi Donna,

      That’s why this story is so great, it inspires anyone hearing about it. I am glad you like that video. I was looking for one where they spoke English and found it after some youtube searching.

      That’s great if I give you the traveling bug 🙂 Thanks for coming by, dear 🙂

  7. Hi Sylviane, This palace is amazing! The story of how it came into existence is really motivating. It’s truly remarkable that one man was able to build this palace and I really appreciated that he took stones that he found on his mail route over a 30 year period and used them to build his dream. Thanks for sharing this inspiring story!
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    1. Hi Shelley,

      Thanks for coming by. I do think that the story of the French mailman is truly amazing and very encouraging, indeed!.

    1. Hi Annie,

      Amazing isn’ t it? You are really not far from it you know? I am sure you and your family will love it. Summer is a great time to go there 🙂

  8. Wow, Sylvianne, this palace and the story behind it are truly amazing and inspiring. This is right up my alley. Sad to say I had not heard of this before today but I’m glad you shared it because it’s awesome. I’ve only been to France once and that was Paris but I’ve always had an affinity for it. I took French in school for many years and was always fascinated with the culture and architecture. It’s so beautiful. The story about the mailman brought tears to my eyes. I’m going to do a little research and learn more. Thanks for teaching me something new and exciting!
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    1. Hi Carol,

      I know, this story is very inspiring. I am so glad if I can be the vehicle to let people know about a few things I know about my home country.

      Now I am starting to see that this blog could go somewhere.

      That little man had a vision and a dream and he made it true! I’m glad it touched you 🙂

  9. Hi Sylviane,

    What an enchanting story!

    I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that this is something I have never heard of considering how many amazing stories there are in the world that go untold til someone cares enough to share! Thank you for sharing this!

    I feel a lot like what one of the men in the video said about how this one man wanted to show what just one person can do to create something magical, even beginning with nothing but a dream. This is the kind of story that especially moves me.

    Thank you for such a powerful way to be reminded that we always have the power to create and do! Just imagine what kind of a powerful “why” Mr. Cheval had to drive him to spend 33 years of his time, love, care, and devotion to the erection of this historical gem. Simply amazing and magical!!

    So happy to share this! 😀


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