The Extraordinary Journey Of A French Mailman

Facteur Cheval

Have you ever heard of the mailman Cheval from Hauterives in the department of Drôme in France?

This man known all over France as “Facteur Cheval” (Mailman Cheval) was born in 1836 and became a mailman in 1867 in the towns of Anneyron and later Hauterives, some 50 kilometers from Lyon.

As he was delivering the mail from door to door on his route of 33 Kilometers (15 miles) of country side he became bored and started to visualize himself building a palace. 

“what one could do while walking perpetually in the same scenery, unless one starts thinking.  To entertain my thoughts I was building a magic palace”. Quote from Joseph Ferdinand Cheval better known as facteur Cheval.

One day while he was walking his 15 mile long daily mailing route, he tripped on something that threw him to the ground few yards from the road. When he investigate what made him fall so hard he found a strange looking rock. He was surprised by the shape of the rather large and strange looking stone, and the next day he started looking around to see if he could find more of the same. He did!

Palais Of Facteur Cheval

It can be said that it’s that day that Cheval’s  fantasy of building a palace became reality. From that day forward he started picking up stones of different shapes and sizes along the way.  It wasn’t long before he started building what is now a very eccentric and original palace that is called “Le Palais du Facteur Cheval” or Palais Idéal (The mailman Cheval’s Palace) or (Ideal Palace).

He started building at night after his day of work and completed his dream of building a palace. The palais of Facteur Cheval is made entirely of stones and rocks that he found on the side roads of his mailing route.  Inside the Palais are numerous inscriptions and exhortations by Cheval. One of them refers to the time that he spent building the palace. 10,000 days, 93,000 hours, 33 years.

Palais Of Facteur Cheval

Facteur Cheval’s art work was first criticized by the locals who thought he was a mad man, but was praised by artists such as Pablo Picasso. Since then Joseph Ferdinand Cheval has inspired numerous contemporary artists such as Doisneau, a photographer and Peter Weiss, a writer.

The palais is attracting numerous tourists every year and has definitely put the small town of Hauterives on the map.


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