The Patient Postman's Self-Built Palace

Your Guide to the World's Hidden Wonders
Oct. 8 2013 9:00 AM

The Patient Postman's Self-Built Palace, Inspired by a Single Stone

Atlas Obscura on Slate is a new travel blog. Like us on Facebook, Tumblr, or follow us on Twitter @atlasobscura.

Walking along his mail route in Hauterives, southern France in 1879, a postman picked up a stone. As he held it in his hand, the shape of this single stone inspired that postman, Ferdinand Cheval, to build a grand palace.

For the next 33 years, he collected stones along his postal route -- sometimes just one or two, and other times, wheelbarrows full of them. Having left school at age 13, and with no training in architecture or art, 43-year-old Postman Cheval began to build his palace with cement, wire and stones, working at night by an oil lamp.

Advertisement

The palace shows a mix of inspirations, including the Bible, the German Romanesque Revival castle Neuschwanstein, Hindu sanctuaries, Le voyage dans la Lune filmmaker Georges Méliès, a cave, and a sandcastle. It also includes a shrine for his wheelbarrow. Cheval wanted to be buried in his palace, and when French authorities forbade it, he built his own magnificent vault in the local cemetery at the age of 80. Inscribed in the palace walls is Cheval's message to the world:

"I was not a builder, I had never handled a mason's trowel, I was not a sculptor. The chisel was unknown to me; not to mention architecture, a field of which I remained totally ignorant... Everything you can see, passer-by, is the work of one peasant, who, out of a dream, created the queen of the world..."

Palaces with panache:


View Palais ideal in a larger map

TODAY IN SLATE

History

Slate Plus Early Read: The Self-Made Man

The story of America’s most pliable, pernicious, irrepressible myth.

Rehtaeh Parsons Was the Most Famous Victim in Canada. Now, Journalists Can’t Even Say Her Name.

Mitt Romney May Be Weighing a 2016 Run. That Would Be a Big Mistake.

Amazing Photos From Hong Kong’s Umbrella Revolution

Transparent Is the Fall’s Only Great New Show

The XX Factor

Rehtaeh Parsons Was the Most Famous Victim in Canada

Now, journalists can't even say her name.

Doublex

Lena Dunham, the Book

More shtick than honesty in Not That Kind of Girl.

What a Juicy New Book About Diane Sawyer and Katie Couric Fails to Tell Us About the TV News Business

Does Your Child Have Sluggish Cognitive Tempo? Or Is That Just a Disorder Made Up to Scare You?

  News & Politics
Damned Spot
Sept. 30 2014 9:00 AM Now Stare. Don’t Stop. The perfect political wife’s loving gaze in campaign ads.
  Business
Moneybox
Sept. 29 2014 7:01 PM We May Never Know If Larry Ellison Flew a Fighter Jet Under the Golden Gate Bridge
  Life
Quora
Sept. 30 2014 9:32 AM Why Are Mint Condition Comic Books So Expensive?
  Double X
Doublex
Sept. 29 2014 11:43 PM Lena Dunham, the Book More shtick than honesty in Not That Kind of Girl.
  Slate Plus
Slate Fare
Sept. 29 2014 8:45 AM Slate Isn’t Too Liberal. But… What readers said about the magazine’s bias and balance.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Sept. 29 2014 9:06 PM Paul Thomas Anderson’s Inherent Vice Looks Like a Comic Masterpiece
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 30 2014 7:36 AM Almost Humane What sci-fi can teach us about our treatment of prisoners of war.
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Sept. 30 2014 7:30 AM What Lurks Beneath The Methane Lakes of Titan?
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 28 2014 8:30 PM NFL Players Die Young. Or Maybe They Live Long Lives. Why it’s so hard to pin down the effects of football on players’ lives.