This year celebrates the centenary of the completion of the « palais idéal » by Fateur Cheval. This monument in the Drôme was built over a thirty-three year period, by Ferdinand Cheval, village postman.
Born in 1836 he left school at the age of thirteen and, after a few years as apprentice baker he took up the job of postman.
One day, while delivering the mail he came upon a stone that caught his eye, he picked it up and took it home, returning the next day to the same place to find a similar one. For the next twenty years he continued to bring stones home, in his pockets, then a basket, and finally a wheelbarrow.
He took over thirty years to build his “palace”, working by candlelight in the evenings.
He wished to be buried there, and on discovering that this was not allowed by the authorities he then spent the next twenty years building is own tomb.
The palace shows the influence of the postcards of foreign places that he must have delivered during his rounds. Also a rather intense determination to get a job done properly – this is thirty years of collecting stones in a wheelbarrow, let’s just put that into perspective, I mean I know there wasn’t much on TV at the time and being a postman he probably didn’t go out much at nights, but it’s still a little worrying I feel.
So, apart from a lovely day out if you’re in the neighbourhood, there’s a moral to the story, just as very journey starts with one step, every palace starts with a stone.
And, don’t moan when your kids bring back a pocketful of pebbles, or perhaps you should, you may end up with this in your back yard.