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Palais Idéal, France

Palais Idéal (1879 - 1924) - Ferdinand Cheval
image sourced here.

Ferdinand Cheval (1836-1924) was a French postman who spent 33 years of his life building an Ideal Castle.

Ferdinand Cheval lived in the Hautes-rives region of the Drome department of France. He had left school at the age of 13 to become a baker's apprentice but eventually became a postman.

Cheval began the building in April 1879. He claimed that he tripped on a stone and was inspired by its shape. He returned to the same spot the next day and begun to collect stones.

For the next 33 years, during his daily mail route, Cheval carried stones from his delivery rounds and at home used them to build his Palais Idéal, the Ideal Castle. First he carried the stones in his pockets, then a basket and eventually a wheelbarrow. He often worked at night in the light of an oil lamp. Locals regarded him as a village idiot.

Cheval spent the first two decades building the outer walls. The Castle is a mix of different styles with inspirations from the Bible to Hindu mythology. Cheval bricked the stones together with lime, wire and cement.

Cheval also wanted to be buried in his castle. When French authorities forbade that, he proceeded to spend eight years building a mausoleum for himself in the cemetery of Hautes-rives. Cheval died August 19, 1924, more than a year after he had finished building it.

Just prior to his death, Cheval began to receive some recognition from the luminaries like André Breton and Pablo Picasso.

In 1969 André Malraux, the contemporary minister of culture, declared the Castle as a cultural landmark and had it officially protected. Cheval's castle is open every day except Christmas Day and New Year's Day. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ferdinand_Cheval [Jun 2005]

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