French postie’s ideal palace has the X-facteur

A French postman’s stonework story is set to find a new audience, says Samantha David

The ‘Palais Idéal du Facteur Cheval’ (‘Postman Cheval’s Ideal Palace’) in Hauterives, Drôme, is arguably the most extraordinary construction in France. A mishmash of turrets, stairways, terraces, balconies, hidden doorways and windows, the entire structure covered in hand-made fantastical sculpture, you need several visits to take it all in.

There are real and imaginary animals, fruit and flowers, huge exotic gods, fairies, foreign scenes and decorative motifs, and there are maxims and mottos everywhere you look. The Facteur had things to say, and he quite literally set them in stone. Hundreds of his thoughts decorate the palace; they are carved from stone, are picked out in pebbles and shells, are daubed on the stone in white paint.

“This ...

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