There was no notion of time anymore when the mail delivery was completed - I could have devoted my free time in hunting, fishing, playing billiards or cards. I preferred the achievement of my dream above everything else.It cost me - 4000 bags of lime and of cement and my Monument comprises 1000 cubic metres of stonework, that is to say 6000 francs ; but people tell me that with that my name will go down in history; that's quite flattering!

Ferdinand Cheval December 1911


From the Facteur Cheval website

Ferdinand Cheval aka Facteur Cheval (1836-1924) was a postman who built his dream : Le Palais Idéal. An amazing and imaginary castle.
Stone by stone, he imposed this harsh discipline on himself to show that willpower could triumph over all manner of physical and mental difficulties, and also achieve a more perfect understanding of the nature of things and the nature itself.

1879 - 1912
33 years of struggle
10 000 days
93 000 hours

"Let those who think they can do better try"

Stone dream
A unique site unlike any other, straight out of a country postman’s roaming imagination, the “Palais Idéal” is a tribute to the genius of nature. Nature through which Ferdinand Cheval walks each day during his long postal rounds in 1879. The contemplation of nature provides him an intense happiness and gives him the inspiration to get down to work.

Work is my glory ...
From the first to the last stone, this man builds untiringly his dream of eternity : 93 000 hours, 10 000 days, 33 years. The ridicule from some villagers is quickly swept away by the encouragements of others and he keeps on building imperturbably. And because he also dreams of distant horizons, travelling and exotic adventures, Ferdinand Cheval invites history, philosophies, civilisations and religions from all over the world to be part of his construction. The “Palais idéal “ becomes a temple of nature , of ideas , of tolerance. The messages engraved by the postman are timeless and speak to each of us according to his heart.

... and honour my only happiness
Ferdinand Cheval passed away and joined the Eastern and Western fairies. His tomb at the village cemetery is similar to his palace. His rest is that of an honest man who accomplished his work. Picasso, André Breton, André Malraux hailed the postman as an artist and a new dimension was suddenly added to his work: naïve art, art brut, surrealism, historical monument, Gaudi. Each year, thousands of visitors from all over the world come to Hauterives to discover this Palace and to take a piece of this ever fascinating stone dream with them.

Ferdinand Cheval aka Postman Cheval (1836 – 1924)
He was born in 1836 in Charmes sur-l’herbasse.
As a rural postman, a self-taught builder and visionary sculptor Fredinand Cheval built the disconcerting Ideal Palace between 1879 and 1912 where “all the styles from all the countries and from all the times meet and are mingled”
Born 19th of April 1836
12th July 1867 Cheval took the oath to carry out his functions as postman
1869 He was rural postman in Hauterives for Tersanne’s round, 32 kilometers on foot “What else is there to do when one is constantly walking in the same setting apart from dreaming? To entertain my thoughts I built in my dreams a magical palace.”
19th of July 1870 France declared war on Prussia.
1871 Thiers was elected president of the Third republic.
1872 Jules Verne published “Around the World in 80 Days”
1879 The epic began “My foot hit a stone that almost made me fall: I wanted to know what it was. It was a stumbling block whose shape was so weird that I put it in my pocket to admire it as I liked. The following day I came back to the same place, I found some more beautiful again. I said to myself ‘Since nature wants to make the sculpture I will make the stonework and the architecture.”

Starting of the Palace.

1881 Completion of the pool and the cascade – the Source of Life.
1882 – 1884 Digging of the Egyptian tomb.
1884-1894 Construction of the Egyptian monument of The Temple of Nature and of The Barbary Coast Tower which supplies with water the Eastern façade with the Barbary Coast columns and the Three Giants.
1895 Completion of the Hindu temple. Standing up of the Three Giants.
1896 Ferdinand Cheval  retired from the Post Office. He lived in the Villa Alicius facing the Ideal Palace
1899 Completion of the Eastern Façade and the beginning of the construction of the Western façade.
1900 Freud publishes The Interpretation of Dreams.
1904 Ending the Western part of the monument Ferdinand Cheval called his work “Ideal Palace” from a poem dedicated to him entitled “Your Ideal Your Place”
1912 Completion of the Ideal palace.
1914 – 1922 Construction of the tomb of Endless Silence and Rest in Hauterives cemetery.
19th August 1924 Death of Ferdinand Cheval at 88
1969 The Ideal Palace was listed thanks to Andre Malraux who considered the Palace as the only example of naïve architecture.
1883 – 1993 Restoration of the Ideal Palace and its gardens. In 1994 acquisition of the monument in 1994 by the town of Hauterives. The Ideal Place receives millions of visitors coming from the entire world each year.





Upper left: The work of a single man

Centre: The work of giants
They put me in this charming palace
Where the swallow returns each year
The creator comes here to admire nature
Everything you see is the work of a peasant designer

Inscriptions: Do Not Touch
10,000 days 93,000 hours, 33 years of struggle Let those more obstinate than I get to work

Inscription: I brought the queen of the whole world from a dream

Inscriptions: Eve listens to the deceitful serpents
Adam the father of humankind
This marvel of which the author can be proud will be unique in the universe








Inscription: Life is a stormy ocean between the child who is born and the old man who is going to disappear










When the passing dreamer contemplates this creation whose superb work has triumphed over the void he seeks
I don't know what terrifying impression of what could be set out by the hand of a giant.

For it is your reward O gigantic sculptor to have achieved your superhuman dream. You may well carve your name on each
panel. Yesterday was the work tomorrow the glory.




Inscription: It is not time that passes but ourselves



- I brought out the queen of the whole world from a dream.
-1879-1912, 10 thousand days, 93 thousand hours, 33 years of struggle
- Shall those more obstinate than I get to work.


- CHEVAL, born on 19 April 1836
- In creating this rock, I wanted to prove what will power can do.
- Where dream becomes reality.
- Work has been my only glory and honour my only joy.


- The Queen of Caves.


• I am the faithful companion of the intelligent worker who looks for his little continent each day within his own countryside.-
This monument is the work of a countryman.
• Guarded by the three giants, have I shown the epic story of the humble people who furrow the ground.
• To the brotherhood of Man.
- To a valiant heart, nothing is impossible.
- Only at the origin of wisdom, can we find true happiness.
• For good men, all people are brothers. Our motto is to love everyone.


- It is not time which passes, but ourselves.

Cheval’s Letter of 1897 

It happened one day of April 1879 as I was making my round as a rural postman, a quarter of a league before reaching Tersanne. As I was walking very fast my foot hit something that sent me rolling a few metres away. I wanted to know the cause of my fall. I was very surprised to see that I had unearthed a kind of stone whose shape was so weird and picturesque that I looked around me. I saw it was not alone. I picked it up, wrapped it in my pocket handkerchief and carefully took it with me, thoroughly resolving to take advantage of my spare time to make a supply of these stones.

From now on I rested neither day nor night. I went for some of these stones.

Sometimes I covered five to six kilometres and when my load was done I carried it on my back. I started by digging a pool in which I made all sorts of animals with cement. Then with my stones I started a cascade. It took two years to make it. Once completed I found myself filled with wonder at my work. The local people criticised me but I was encouraged by foreign visitors, thus I did not give up. I had discovered new stones each more beautiful than the next in St Martin-d’Aout, in Treigneux and in St Germain: they were some kind of round shaped balls. I got down to work.

I started a cave and a second cascade so that my cave was between the two. That is what forms the whole middle of the monument. It took three more years to finish it. I was still more and more delighted with my work. Then, with my little round shaped balls I had the idea to make a tomb whose style would be unique and whose shape would be Egyptian

And I could ask to be buried in the rock like a Pharoah. I set about digging the earth. I made a kind of rock and in this rock I dug coffins. These coffins are covered by slabs that can be removed as one wishes and that are closed by a stone door with a second door made of iron. On this underground rock I raised the monument which is twelve feet wide and fifteen feet long. It is supported by eight walls whose stones’ shape is most picturesque. The fronts facing east and north are held up by four columns that support the jagged outlines of the monument. In the middle there is a lovely stone crown made of the little round shaped balls.

Higher there is the cave of the Virgin Mary with two of the four evangelists on each side. There is also a Calvary with angles holding up crowns and pilgrims. Higher there is a second crown with the funeral urn, and above the urn, there is a little genie. This monument is over thirty feet high. One reaches the top thanks to a spiral staircase. I worked day and night for seven more years to finish it, sometimes carrying my stones on my back fifteen kilometres and most of the time by night.

To be always kept busy during my spare time and to make the symmetry with the rest of the monument, I wanted to add a Hindu temple whose interior is a real cave that is divided into several little ones and in these little caves I put down fossils that I find in the earth.

The entrance is guarded by a group of animals always found in the earth like the bear, the boa, the crocodile, the lion, the elephant and other animals of this kind and tree trunks.

On the other side there are three big giants and two mummies. All of them are Egyptian. Higher one can also find there two prickly pears, some palm trees, some olive trees and one aloe. One reaches the top of the tower thanks to a spiral staircase. In the entrance to this staircase there are four columns whose shape recalls the Barbary coast style. It took four years to build this Hindu temple.

Always with the same courage and perseverance it is two years since I started a gallery facing west with twelve square feet of sacrificial animals on each side which communicates either with the Hindu temple or the tomb. Above the sacrificial animals and the gallery there is a terrace which is twenty two metres long. One reaches it thanks to a staircase so that the visitors can overlook the whole monument easily. The tourists came this year in great number and were more numerous than the previous years and all of them leave my place filled with wonder at my monument. What they admire most is the work and the perseverance which I have brought on this wonderful ensemble which I hope will be called “unique in the world”.

I have been working for eighteen years and yet I need two more years to finish the interior and the exterior and my dream will have lasted twenty years.

I started this gigantic work at forty three years old.

I did not serve the government as a soldier but I served it for thirty years as a postman.

Since I have to give a name to my work will you please, sir, give it yourself a general or detailed name as you see fit. You are in a better position to find it than anybody.

I insist that the expenses due to our correspondence will all be borne by me. I should be gratefully obliged if you let me know them.

I am so happy that you agreed to make a little biography on me, I will feel grateful to you for all the trouble you will have gone through for me.

Yours faithfully

Your humble servant

Ferdinand Cheval former postman of Hauterives 

I also add to this letter the total length of the monument thinking that it will be useful. It is twenty three metres long and in certain places twelve metres wide and six to eleven metres high. The entire shape of the work, which is one single piece of rock, is about six hundred square metres as a whole.

The whole monument is one man’s work. 

Undated letters from Ferdinand Cheval to the Hauterives departmental archivist Andre Lacroix probably written in autumn 1897.