The Bastille was a fortress and a prison of Paris. On April 22, 1370 the first stone was laid. The Bastille was originally built as a fortified gate under the orders of Charles V to protect the eastern wall around Paris from an English attack. Charles VI had the Bastille turned into an independent stronghold by walling up the openings. The erection of a bastion on the eastern flank in 1557 completed its defensive system. The inner court was divided into unequal parts in the 17th century by a traverse block. The Bastille was demolished a few days after the Bastille was taken by an angry mob of Parisian citizens on July 14, 1789. Before its destruction the Bastille consisted of equal height walls connecting eight 100 foot towers surrounded by a moat eighty feet wide.
La Bastilla is the Spanish word for La
originates from the famous prison that once stood here before being completely
destroyed during the French revolution in 1789.
A column now stands in the middle of the square, erected in memory of the victims of the revolution
A column now stands in the middle of the square, erected in memory of the victims of the revolution of 1830.
In 1880 July 14 was chosen as a national holiday and called Bastille Day. It is much like Independence Day (July 4) in the United States. They celebrate it with parades, fireworks, and speeches. Today the Place de la Bastille, on the right bank near the Ile de la Cité, marks the location of the prison destroyed during the French Revolution. In 1990 they also opened the Bastille Opera House on the site of the Bastille.
Bastille in the History of France
During the 17th and 18th century the Bastille was used mainly as a prison. The Cardinal de Richelieu was the first to use it as a state prison. During the 17th century the Bastille was rumored to hold hundreds of political prisoners but actually held an average of 40 prisons a year. The prisoners of the Bastille consisted of anyone from political prisoners to people held at the request of their families. If the royal court found a citizen of any class disagreeable, then it ordered their arrest using secret warrants and imprisoned them for any amount of time in the Bastille without a formal accusation or trial. Voltaire and the Marquis de Sade were two of the Bastille's most famous prisoners. On July 14, 1789 a mob of angry Parisians looking for weapons seized the Bastille; they found no weapons and only seven prisoners.
In 1715, when the Sun king Louis XIV. died, France was the most powerful nation in Europe. But the French monarchy flourished on a basis of injustice that led to its dramatic collapse. The clergy and nobility were exempted from taxation and the burden of taxation fell on the poorest classes: up to 70 % of the income of peasants was taken by taxation. The wars to maintain French power and overseas had been expensive, and in 1787 the French monarchy found itself bankrupt. In order to authorize new taxes the king revived an ancient representative assembly of France, the Estates - General. But when the assembly met, many members of the third Estate, the bourgoisie (the other two Estates being the nobility and the clergy), called for constitutional reforms before new taxes were authorized. The king resisted and brought up troops from the provinces. Whereupon Paris and France revolted.
The grim-looking prison of the
The grim-looking prison of theBastille was stormed by the people of Paris on July 14, 1789. The people saw the attack on the Bastille as an attack on the injustice of the Old Regime generally and the insurrection spread rapidly throughout France. French nobles who opposed the revolution emigrated to other European countries and encouraged foreign rulers to declare war on France. When foreign armies gathered on the eastern frontier, the French king began to conspire with his monarchist friends in Austria and Prussia. This inaugurated a more radical phase of the revolution. A republic was proclaimed, open war with Austria and Prussia ensued, and the king was tried and executed for treason to his people.
The Revolution had largely started to protect private property from taxation but its equalitarian formula led soon to the abolition of privileges, titles and serfdom. There arose a great flame of enthusiasm for France and the Republic. France assumed the role of protector of all revolutionaries not only at home but throughout Europe. French armies exported revolutionary ideas; everywhere kings were expelled and republics set up. While French soldiers were fighting abroad for the revolution, often never quite clear in their minds whether they were looting or liberating the countries into which they poured, the republican enthusiasm in Paris was spending itself in a less glorious fashion. Rival political cliques fought for power and a great Reign of Terror began to destroy one group of 'traitors' after another. Finally in 1794, the radical leader during the reign of terror, Robespierre himself was overthrown and executed.
Robespierre was succeeded by a Directory of five men which held France together for five years. In 1799, however, a successful young general, Napoleon Bonaparte, overthrew the Directory and eventually crowned himself emperor of France. Napoleon consolidated many reforms of the revolution, but his intense egotism carried him to a belated attempt to restore the Western Empire. He tried to destroy the remains of the old Holy Roman empire, intending to replace it with a new one centering upon Paris. French armies conquered Italy and Spain and they defeated Prussia and Austria. But Napoleon never won command of the sea from the British and his fleets sustained a decisive defeat by the British Admiral Nelson at Trafalgar (1805).
In 1812, Napoleon undertook a disastrous invasion of Russia, whereupon a coalition of almost all the powers of Europe invaded France, and the emperor was forced to abdicate. Napoleon had given France ten years of glory and the humiliation of a final defeat. The forces released by the French revolution were exhausted, the French monarchy was restored and a revolutionary era came to an end.
Half past three on July 14, 1789. A huge, bloodthirsty mob marched to the Bastille, searching for gun powder and prisoners that had been taken by the unpopular and detested King, Louis XVI. Even elements of the newly formed National Guard were present at the assault. The flying rumors of attacks from the government and the biting truth of starvation were just too much for the angry crowds. The Bastille had been prepared for over a week, anticipating about a hundred angry subjects. But nothing could have prepared the defenders for what they met that now famous day. Along the thick rock walls of the gargantuan fortress and between the towers were twelve more guns that were capable of launching 24-ounce case shots at any who dared to attack. However, the enraged Paris Commune was too defiant and too livid to submit to the starvation and seeming injustice of their government.
The Bastille was governed by a man named de Launay. On July 7th, thirty-two Swiss soldiers led by Lieutenant Deflue, came to aid de Launay, helping him to prepare for a small mob. Rumors were flying everywhere. De Launay was expecting a mob attack, but certainly not a siege! The entire workforce of the Bastille had stealthily and furiously been repairing the Bastille and reinforcing it, all to prepare for a minor attack from a hundred or so angry citizens. At three o'clock that afternoon, however, a huge group of French guards and angry citizens tried to break into the fortress. There were over three hundred people ready to give their lives to put an end to their overtaxing and overbearing government. However the Bastille was threatened by more than the numerous crowds: three hundred guards had left their posts earlier that day, out of fear and from the rumors. The besiegers easily broke into the Arsenal and into the first courtyard, cut the drawbridge down, and then quickly got through the wooden door behind it. They boldly demanded that the bridges be lowered, but they were refused. The Marquis de Launay said he would surrender if his troops were allowed to leave peacefully, but he was simply rebuked. They wanted de Launay on a noose or with his head in a basket.
The vicious crowds shouted for him to lower the bridges. De Launay sent a note to a mob leader named Hulin, claiming that he had 20,000 pounds of gunpowder and if the besiegers did not accept his offer, he would annihilate the entire fortress, the garrison, and everyone in it! Yet they still refused. The bridges were finally lowered on de Launay's command, and he and his soldiers were captured by the crowds and dragged through the filthy streets of Paris.
The mob paraded through the streets, showing off their captives, and crudely cutting off many heads. The National Guard tried to stop the crowds from looting, but it was useless. They continued marching on, making their way to the Hotel de Ville. Upon learning that the Bastille had been taken, King Louis XVI, who was residing at Versailles, was reported to have asked an informer: "Is this a revolt?" and La Rochefoucauld-Liancourt said, "No, Sire, it is a revolution."1 Little did Louis know that the mob's next plan was to march to Versailles, take him away with them.__________
1Bartlett's Familiar Quotations (: Little, Brown and Company, Inc., 1980), Microsoft Bookshelf 1993).