Skip to main content
Ages 13+
Under 13
Palace in French countryside made from tiny stones.

The Postman Who Built a Secret Palace of Tiny Stones

Enchant, Inspire

In one of the most unlikely and beautiful creative events, a postman built a surrealist palace from the rocks he collected on his delivery route.

“Everything you can see, dear passer-by, is the work of one peasant, who, out of a dream, created the queen of the world.”

Ferdinand Cheval

To prove to himself that willpower can build kingdoms, a rural postman called Ferdinand Cheval, from 1879, spent 33 of his life modeling a palace of little stones, night after night and in secret.

In his autobiography, he recounts that one day, at the age of 43, he stumbled across a stone while walking on his postal route in the French countryside; the stone’s beauty inspired him so much that the next day he went back to the same place and picked up another… and he thus began to collect them in the pockets of his pants during his daily delivery rounds. And from that moment he became a silent collector and the creator of his personal kingdom.

pebble palace made by Ferdinand Cheval

With the same diligence of a collector that would last more than three decades, Cheval constructed his ideal palace, which he intricately built with figures of gods, temples and fountains. All of which he carried out in the dark nights of his free time.

A friend of Nature but of humble origin
without grumbling I went through all the things
that often make life so hard.

The structure is 78 feet long and 42 feet wide, with internal passageways covered with shells, long corridors, towers and external staircases. An inscription carved on one corner says, “10,000 days, 9300 hours, 33 years of toil.” Cheval said that the monument originated in a dream and that at the time he didn’t tell anybody for fear of appearing ridiculous. Today his palace is considered a magnificent example of naïve art architecture and was a source of inspiration for surrealists such as André Bretón and Pablo Picasso.

The ideal palace is located in Hauterives, in France’s Rhône valley. It is a true monument to pure fantasy and the most perseverant of willpower, and above all one of the most beautiful stories of apocryphal architecture that exists.

Related Articles