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Over the centuries, we have learned so much about the strength of the human spirit. That incredible ability to triumph over adversity, whether it be physical, emotional or mental agony... or all three at once.

As Easter is uppermost in our thoughts, so too is the concept of war. That conflict that drives us to delve deep and draw upon reserves that we often did not know we had. 

Alan Jones spoke so passionately last night about how Easter is about death and rebirth. About struggles that can wear us down yet somehow, the miracle of the human spirit can come out the other end and rejoice that all is not lost.

While Jesus suffered a torment that is incomprehensible, his torture and brutal punishment for daring to speak out against the accepted doctrines and political classes was as much to punish him as it was to punish those who dared believe in him. Jesus was 33 years old when he died and was reborn.

While his crucifixion was literal and ours is more metaphorical, we are witnessing our own stoning, humiliation and torture for daring to challenge the current mindset and propaganda that is imposing its shackles and restraints on an increasing level.

Deep down inside, we are praying for a miracle and a rebirth or resurrection where good triumphs over evil and hope is restored and justice and commonsense prevail. 


One does not need to be a Christian, a churchgoer or even a believer in a power greater than ourselves some of us choose to call God. One only has to believe that evil will be defeated, even if it means a temporary death to those things we cherish and love. 

I recently had occasion to watch a movie called " The Ideal Palace. " It was based on the true story of a man in France, Joseph Cheval, (19 April 1836 – 19 August 1924) who built a " palace ' for his daughter, Alice. 

Joseph was a man who was at war with himself and suffered the torment of loss and the pain of grief. Yet he fought through it and, drawing on his unique simplistic view of the world, he created something of lasting and extraordinary beauty. 

Cheval began the building in April 1879 when he was 43 years old. He had lost his first wife and first born son and had his second son taken from him to live with relatives. He had started his working life as a baker but ended up becoming a postman who worked the rugged trails every day delivering mail to the people in the area.


He would read the postcards that people sent from all over the world. It is estimated that he walked 32 km a day and in excess of 225,000 km or 5 times around the world. 

Cheval was a man of few words. He was inspired by Nature and the wonder of the world around him. 

About 5 years after the death of his first wife, he met and married a widow who gave birth to Alice. She became the focus of Joseph's life and he was a man whose heart was smitten.

One day, in 1879 he was out doing his rounds. He said:

220px Facteur Cheval Pierre d achoppement


"I was walking very fast when my foot caught on something that sent me stumbling a few metres away, I wanted to know the cause. In a dream I had built a palace, a castle or caves, I cannot express it well... I told no one about it for fear of being ridiculed and I felt ridiculous myself. Then fifteen years later, when I had almost forgotten my dream, when I wasn't thinking of it at all, my foot reminded me of it. My foot tripped on a stone that almost made me fall. I wanted to know what it was... It was a stone of such a strange shape that I put it in my pocket to admire it at my ease. The next day, I went back to the same place. I found more stones, even more beautiful, I gathered them together on the spot and was overcome with delight... It's a sandstone shaped by water and hardened by the power of time. It becomes as hard as pebbles. It represents a sculpture so strange that it is impossible for man to imitate, it represents any kind of animal, any kind of caricature. I said to myself: since Nature is willing to do the sculpture, I will do the masonry and the architecture." 

Alice died in 1894 at the age of 15. Alice's death hit Cheval and he channeled his grief into the construction of his ideal palace - for Alice,

One of the many inscriptions on the palace is this one  

 "1879-1912 10,000 days, 93,000 hours, 33 years of struggle. Let those who think they can do better try.


The stone that inspired Joseph Cheval

I was struck by the story of Joseph Cheval last night as I pondered the Easter message of death and resurrection. Here was a man who fought through such an abundance of loss but never lost his love of Nature and the beauty of the world around him. The palace was a symbol of his salvation and a tribute to a simple life well lived. He struggled for 33 years and was reborn through his struggle. 

To me, it is more magnificent than the Taj Mahal because it was one man's devotion, one man's unyielding determination and one man's labour of love. It was not built by slaves or with abundant gold and treasure, save what he found within his own heart and soul.

It is not my intention to trivialise the sacrifice that Christ made or indeed the legacy of his life on this place we called planet Earth. I hope that by telling the story of Joseph Cheval at Easter there is a parallel: Both were postmen in their own ways, delivering messages that would inspire and bring hope and news from afar. 

Both embarked on journeys that lasted 33 years and both suffered pain and loss, were denigrated and mocked. Yet both remained focussed on their tasks and both left the world a better place through their hours of toil, hardship and faith in themselves and the messages that they carried.

The Ideal Palace is now a French National Treasure and is designated as a National monument.









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