You might have seen “The Incredible Story of Postman Cheval” on France 3 last night! But who was this postman Cheval? An outstanding designer, a man with autistic Asperger’s Syndrome? Nevertheless, this Drôme factor leaves an impressive legacy with its famous palace.
Located in the Drôme in the Hauteriven, Le Palais Idéal du Facteur Cheval is a monument built by Ferdinand Cheval from 1879 to 1912. It has been classified as a historical monument since 1969. The monument is a hymn to nature! A mixture of different architectural styles, Christian religious symbols and Egyptian or Hindu mythology is a real artistic explosion.
Who is the Cheval Postman?
Joseph Ferdinand Cheval, better known as the postman Cheval, was born on April 19, 1836 in Charmes-sur-l’Herbasse (Drôme). As his nickname suggests, he was working for the post at the time. He is known for having spent 33 years of his life building a monument straight from his imagination: the ideal palace of the postman Cheval. But he also built his grave for 8 years. These two works are considered masterpieces of naive architecture.
The history of the ideal palace
Ferdinand Cheval says that during one of his tours in 1879 he came across a stone that almost knocked him down. This oddly shaped stone will be the first stone of its building. His ideal palace is built over his stone finds during his tours. Perhaps that explains the duration of the construction. At the time, the villagers considered him an eccentric, but Ferdinand Cheval continued his stone harvest to make sculptures.
His ideal palace is built over his stone finds during his tours. Photo credit: Shutterstock / Richard Semik
Finally, after 33 years, he erected a 12 m high and 26 m long monument made of collected stones. To assemble his stones, Cheval used mortar, lime, and cement. But it is also a pioneer in a technology that is becoming indispensable: reinforced concrete! He’s one of the first to add metal reinforcement to cement to make it stronger!
He’s one of the first to add metal reinforcement to cement to make it stronger! Photo credit: Shutterstock / fullempty
The autistic equine Asperger’s factor?
Although some opinions differ, Professor Olivier Dulac, a neuropsychiatrist at Necker Hospital, believes Factor Cheval could represent an autism spectrum disorder. This manic and haunted way of building a wonderful palace has been a trademark of his all his life. This way of setting a goal and so meticulously attaining it could be a sign of Asperger’s Syndrome.
Even if this palace, which has become a museum, is currently closed to the public due to a health crisis, it is an essential element of Drôme tourism. For more information, visit the Palais du Facteur Cheval website!