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Bastille
Paris, France
Bastille Exterior 1790 or 1791.jpg
A view of the Bastille
Type Medieval fortress, prison
Built 1370–1383
Built by Charles V of France
Demolished 1789
Current
condition
remains in Metro station
Events French Revolution

The Bastille (French pronunciation: [bastij]) was a fortress-prison in Paris, known formally as Bastille Saint-Antoine—Number 232, Rue Saint-Antoine—best known today because of the storming of the Bastille on 14 July 1789, which along with the Tennis Court Oath is considered the beginning of the French Revolution. The event was commemorated one year later by the Fête de la Fédération. The French national holiday, celebrated annually on 14 July is officially the Fête Nationale, and officially commemorates the Fête de la Fédération, but it is commonly known in English as Bastille Day. Bastille is a French word meaning "castle" or "stronghold", or "bastion"; used with a definite article (la Bastille in French, the Bastille in English), it refers to the prison.

Contents

Early history of the Bastille

The Bastille was built as the Bastion de Saint-Antoine during the Hundred Years' War. The Bastille originated as the Saint-Antoine gate, but from 1370–1383 this gate was extended to create a fortress to defend the east end of Paris and the Hôtel Saint-Pol royal palace. After the war, it was reused as a state prison, with Louis XIII the first king to send prisoners there.

Plan of the Bastille.

The Bastille was built as an irregular rectangle with eight towers, 70 meters (220 ft) long, 30 meters (90 ft) wide, with towers and walls 25 meters (80 ft) high, surrounded by a broad moat. Originally there were two courtyards inside and residential buildings against the walls. Pairs of towers on the east and west facades served as gates through which the rue Saint-Antoine passed. In the 1400s, these were blocked up, and a new city gate was created to the north on the present day rue de la Bastille. A bastion on the eastern approaches was built later. A very significant military feature of the building was that the walls and towers were of the same height and width and connected by a broad terrace. This enabled soldiers on the wall head to rapidly move to a threatened sector of the fortress without having to descend inside the towers, as well as allowing placement of artillery. A similar provision can be seen today at Château de Tarascon.

Storming

Prise de la Bastille, by Jean-Pierre-Louis-Laurent Houel.

The archives of the Bastille show that the building largely held common criminals (forgers, embezzlers, swindlers, etc.), as well as people imprisoned for religious reasons (Huguenots) and those responsible for printing or writing forbidden pamphlets [1]. People of high rank were sometimes held there too, and so the prison (which could only hold a little over 50 people) was far less sordid a place than most of the Parisian prisons. But the secrecy maintained around the Bastille and its prisoners gave it a sinister reputation.

The confrontation that led to the people of Paris storming the Bastille on 14 July 1789, following several days of disturbances, resulted from the fact that gunpowder and arms had been stored there, and the people (whose fears had been raised by a number of rumors) demanded access to these. The later idea that they wanted to free the prisoners (only 7 of whom remained) has been discounted. The regular garrison consisted of 82 invalides (veteran soldiers no longer capable of service in the field) under Governor Bernard-René de Launay. They had however been reinforced by a detachment of 32 grenadiers from one of the Swiss mercenary regiments summoned to Paris by the King shortly before 14 July.

A crowd of around 8800 men and women gathered outside around mid-morning, calling for the surrender of the prison, the removal of the guns and the release of the arms and gunpowder. Two people chosen to represent those gathered were invited into the fortress and slow negotiations began.

Regimental flag flown over the Bastille at the time of the French Revolution.

In the early afternoon around 1:00, the crowd broke into the undefended outer courtyard and the chains on the drawbridge to the inner courtyard were cut. A spasmodic exchange of gunfire began; in mid-afternoon the crowd was reinforced by mutinous Gardes Françaises of the Royal Army, and two cannons, all of which were originally supposed to help the governor protect the prison. De Launay ordered a ceasefire; in spite of his surrender demands being refused, he capitulated and the vainqueurs swept in to liberate the fortress at around 5:30.

When the rioters entered the Bastille, they collected cartridges and gunpowder for their weapons and then freed the seven prisoners (which they had to do by breaking down the doors, since the keys had already been taken off and paraded through the streets). Later, the governor and some of the guards of the Bastille were killed under chaotic circumstances, despite having surrendered under a flag of truce, and their heads paraded on pikes.

As a symbolic gesture, the key to the west portal of the Bastille was presented on March 17, 1790 by Marquis de Lafayette to George Washington and is displayed in George Washington's home at Mount Vernon[2].

Demolition

A miniature of the Bastille made from one of the stones of the fortress (Carnavalet Museum).
Remaining stones of the Bastille are still visible now on Boulevard Henri IV

The propaganda value of the Bastille was quickly seized upon, notably by the showy entrepreneur Pierre-François Palloy, "Patriote Palloy". The fate of the Bastille was uncertain, but Palloy was quick to establish a claim, organising a force of demolition men around the site on the 15th. Over the next few days many notables visited the Bastille and it seemed to be turning into a memorial. But Palloy secured a license for demolition from the Permanent Committee at the Hôtel de Ville and quickly took complete control.

Pierre-François Palloy secured a fair budget and his crew grew in number. He had control over all aspects of the work and the workers, even to the extent of having two hanged for murder. Palloy put much effort into continuing the site as a paying attraction and producing a huge range of souvenirs, including much of the rubble. The actual demolition proceeded apace; by November, 1789, the structure was largely demolished. The cut stones of the fortress were used in the construction of the Pont de la Concorde (Paris).

The area today

Place de la Bastille, with the July Column in the center, and the Opéra Bastille on the right.

The former location of the fort is currently called the Place de la Bastille. It is home to the Opéra Bastille. The large ditch (fossé) behind the fort has been transformed into a marina for pleasure boats, the Bassin de l'Arsenal, to the south, and a covered canal, the Canal Saint Martin, extending north from the marina beneath the vehicular roundabout that borders the location of the fort.

Some undemolished remains of one tower of the fort were discovered during excavation for the Métro (rail mass-transit system) in 1899, and were moved to a park (the Square Henri-Galli) a few hundred meters away, where they are displayed today. The original outline of the fort is also marked on the pavement of streets and sidewalks that pass over its former location, in the form of special paving stones. A cafe and some other businesses largely occupy the location of the fort, and the rue Saint Antoine passes directly over it as it opens onto the roundabout of the Bastille.

Bastille Prisoners in Fiction

References

  • Lorentz, Phillipe; Dany Sandron (2006). Atlas de Paris au Moyen Âge. Paris: Parigramme. pp. 238 pp. ISBN 2840964023. 
  1. ^ "Archives de la Bastille" collected by francais Ravaisson Mollien, printed by Paris : A. Durand et Pedone-Lauriel, 1866-1904
  2. ^ http://www.mountvernon.org/virtualnonflash/1Floor/bastilleKey.htm

External links

  • Remains of the Bastille - photo of the salvaged remains of one tower, with a brief description
  • À bas la Bastille!: how the Encyclopædia Britannica has written about the Bastille in various editions since 1768.


Coordinates: 48°51′12″N 2°22′6″E / 48.85333°N 2.36833°E / 48.85333; 2.36833


1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

BASTILLE (from Fr. bastir, now bdtir, to build), originally any fortified building forming part of a system of defence or attack; the name was especially applied to several of the principal points in the ancient fortifications of Paris. In the reign of King John, or even earlier, the gate of Saint Antoine was flanked by two towers; and about 1369 Hugues Aubriot, at the command of Charles V., changed it into a regular bastille or fort by the addition of six others of massive structure, the whole united by thick walls and surrounded by a ditch 25 ft. wide. Various extensions and alterations were afterwards effected; but the building remained substantially what it was made by the vigorous provost, a strong and gloomy structure, with eight stern towers. As the ancient fortifications of the city were superseded, the use of the word bastille as a general designation gradually died out, and it became restricted to the castle of Saint Antoine, the political importance of which made it practically, long before it was actually, the only bastille of Paris. The building had originally a military purpose, and it appears as a fortress on several occasions in French history. When Charles VII. retook Paris from the English in 1436, his opponents in the city took refuge in the Bastille, which they were prepared to defend with vigour, but the want of provisions obliged them to capitulate. In 1588 the duke of Guise took possession of the Bastille, gave the command of it to Bussy-Leclerc, and soon afterwards shut up the whole parlement within its walls, for having refused their adherence to the League. When Henry IV. became master of Paris he committed the command of the Bastille to Sully, and there he deposited his treasures, which at the time of his death amounted to the sum of 15,870,000 livres. On the 11th of January 1649 the Bastille was invested by the forces of the Fronde, and after a short cannonade capitulated on the 13th of that month. The garrison consisted of only twenty-two men. The Frondeurs concluded a peace with the court on the 11th of March; but it was stipulated by treaty that they should retain possession of the Bastille, which in fact was not restored to the king till the 21st of October 1651.

At a very early period, however, the Bastille was employed for the custody of state prisoners, and it was ultimately much more of a prison than a fortress. According to the usual account, which one is tempted to ascribe to the popular love of poetical justice, the first who was incarcerated within its walls was the builder himself, Hugues Aubriot. Be this as it may, the duke of Nemours spent thirteen years there in one of those iron cages which Louis XI. called his fillettes; and Jacques d'Armagnac, Poyet and Chabot were successively prisoners. It was not till the reign of Louis XIII. that it became recognized as a regular place of confinement; but from that time till its destruction it was frequently filled to embarrassment with men and women of every age and condition. Prisoners were detained without trial on lettres de cachet for different reasons, to avoid a scandal, either public or private, or to satisfy personal animosities. But the most frequent and most notorious use of the Bastille was to imprison those writers who attacked the government or persons in power. It was this which made it so hated as an emblem of despotism, and caused its capture and demolition in the Revolution.

Of the treatment of prisoners in the Bastille very various accounts have been given even by those who speak from personal experience, for the simple reason that it varied greatly in different cases. The prisoners were divided into two main classes, those who were detained on grounds of precaution or by way of admonitory correction, and those who lay under presumption or proof of guilt. The former were subject to no investigation or judgment, and the length of their imprisonment depended on the will of the king; the latter were brought to trial in the ordinary courts or before special tribunals, such as that of the Arsenal - though even in their case the interval between their arrest and their trial was determined solely by the royal decree, and it was quite possible for a man to grow old in the prison without having the opportunity of having his fate decided. Until guilt was established, the prisoner was registered in the king's name, and - except in the case of state-prisoners of importance, who were kept with greater strictness and often in absolute isolation - he enjoyed a certain degree of comfort and freedom. Visitors were admitted under restrictions; games were allowed; and, for a long time at least, exercise was permitted in open parts of the interior. Food was both abundant and good, at least for the better class of prisoners; and instances were not unknown of people living below their allowance and, by arrangement with the governor, saving the surplus. When the criminality of the prisoner was established, his name was transferred to the register of the "commission," and he became exposed to numerous hardships and even barbarities, which however belonged not so much to the special organization of the Bastille as to the general system of criminal justice then in force.

Among the more distinguished personages who were confined in this fortress during the reigns of Louis XIV., XV. and XVI., were the famous Man of the Iron Mask (see Iron Mask), Foucquet, the marshal Richelieu, Le Maistre de Sacy, De Renneville, Voltaire, Latude, Le Prevot de Beaumont, Labourdonnais, Lally, Cardinal de Rohan, Linguet and La Chalotais. While no detestation is too great for that system of "royal pantheism" which led to the unjust and often protracted imprisonment of even men of great ability and stainless character, it is unnecessary to give implicit credence to all the tales of horror which found currency during the excitement of the Revolution, and which historical evidence, as well as a priori considerations, tends to strip of their more dreadful features, and even in many cases to refute altogether. Much light of an unexpected kind has in modern times been shed on the history of the Bastille from the pages of its own records. These documents had been flung out into the courts of the building by the revolutionary captors, and after suffering grievous diminution and damage were finally stored up and forgotten in the vaults of the library of the (socalled) Arsenal. Here they were discovered in 1840 by Francois Ravaisson, who devoted himself to their arrangement, elucidation and publication.

At the breaking out of the Revolution the Bastille was attacked by the Parisians; and, after a vigorous resistance, it was taken and razed to the ground on the 14th of July 1789. At the time of its capture only seven prisoners were found in it. A very striking account of the siege will be found in Carlyle's French Revolution, vol. i. The site of the building is now marked by a lofty column of bronze, dedicated to the memory of the patriots of July 1789 and 1830. It is crowned by a gilded figure of the genius of liberty.

See the Memoirs of Linguet (1783), and Latude (ed. by Thierry, tome iii. 18mo, 1791-1793); also Francois Ravaisson, Les Archives de la Bastille (16 vols. 8vo, 1866-1886); Delort, Histoire de la detention des philosophes a la Bastille (3 vols., 1829); F. Bournon, La Bastille (1893); Fr. Funck-Brentano, Les Lettres de cachet a Paris, etude suivie d'une liste des prisonniers de la Bastille 0904); G. Lecocq, La Prise de la Bastille (1881).


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Wiktionary

Up to date as of January 15, 2010

Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary

See also bastille

Contents

English

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Wikipedia

Proper noun

Singular
Bastille

Plural
-

Bastille

  1. A prison in France, the storming of which in 1789 CE began the French Revolution.

Derived terms

Anagrams


Simple English


The Bastille was a prison in Paris, France. It was destroyed during the French Revolution on July 14, 1789. This event is considered the beginning of the French Revolution. Today in France, July 14, Fête Nationale, also called Bastille Day, is a national holiday.

Contents

Early history of the Bastille

The Bastille was built during the Hundred Years' War. It was called the Bastion de Saint-Antoine. At first it was just the Saint-Antoine gate, but from 1370–1383, this gate was made bigger and became a fortress. It defended the east end of Paris and the Hôtel Saint-Pol royal palace. After the war, it was turned into a prison. Louis XIII was the first king to send prisoners there.


The Bastille was built in a rectangle shape, 70 meters (220 ft) long and 30 meters (90 ft) wide. It had eight towers and walls 25 meters (80 ft) high, with a wide moat going around the outside. There were two courtyards inside and houses against the walls. Pairs of towers on the east and west sides had gates through which the rue Saint-Antoine passed. In the 1400s, these were blocked up, and a new city gate was built to the north on the present day rue de la Bastille. A bastion on the eastern side was built later. The walls and towers were of the same height and width and joined by a broad path. Soldiers on the wall could move quickly to any part of the fortress without having to climb down inside the towers. It also meant that there was enough room for placing artillery. A similar design can be seen today at Château de Tarascon.

Storming the Bastille

.]]

As a prison, the Bastille held common criminals such as forgers and thieves, as well as people put in prison for religious reasons, such as the Huguenots. There were also people who had for printed or written things against the government or the King. [1]. People of high rank were sometimes held there too. The prison, which could only hold about 50 prisoners, was not as bad most of the prisons in Paris. But secrecy about the prison and its prisoners gave it an evil reputation.

The people of Paris attacked the Bastille on 14 July 1789, following several days of protests. They were after the gunpowder and weapons that were kept at the prison. They were not attacking the Bastille to free the seven prisoners inside. The prison was guarded by about 80 invalides (old soldiers) led by Governor Bernard-René de Launay. There was also an extra group of 32 grenadiers from one of the Swiss mercenary regiments brought to Paris by the King shortly before 14 July.

A crowd of around 8,000 men and women were outside the Bastille by mid-morning. They wanted the guards to give up the prison, remove the artillery guns, and give them the gunpowder and weapons. Two people chosen to represent those outside were invited into the fortress to talk with the Governor.

At about 1:00pm, the crowd broke into the undefended outer courtyard and the chains on the drawbridge to the inner courtyard were cut. There was some gunfire, but by mid-afternoon the crowd was supported by mutinous Gardes Françaises of the Royal Army and two cannons. De Launay ordered his guards to stop shooting and he gave up the fortress. The crowd swept into the Bastille at about 5.30pm.

The crowd took the weapons, gunpowder, and freed the seven prisoners. They had to break down the doors because the keys had already been taken and shown in the streets. Even though they had surrendered, the Governor and some of the guards of the Bastille were killed. Their heads were cut off, stuck onto long poles, and marched through the streets.

Pulling down the Bastille

).]] ]] The propaganda value of the Bastille was quickly seen by Pierre-François Palloy, "Patriote Palloy". He got together a group of men to begin pulling down the fortress by the next day. People paid him to view the site and he sold off pieces as souvenirs. By November, 1789, the Bastille was largely pulled down. The cut stones of the fortress were used to build the Pont de la Concorde (Paris).

The area today

, with the July Column in the center, and the Opéra Bastille on the right.]]

The site of the Bastille is now called the Place de la Bastille. It is home to the Opéra Bastille. The large moat behind the fort has been turned into a marina for boats, the Bassin de l'Arsenal. To the north, a covered canal, the Canal Saint Martin, goes under the road along the edge of the site.

The remains of one tower of the fort were found during digging for the Métro (rail mass-transit system) in 1899. These were moved to a park, the Square Henri-Galli, a few hundred meters away. The outline of the fort is also marked on the streets and sidewalks with special paving stones. A cafe and some other businesses are now on the site of the fort, and the rue Saint Antoine passes directly over it as it opens onto the roundabout of the Bastille.

The Bastille in popular culture

References

  • Lorentz, Phillipe; Dany Sandron (2006). Atlas de Paris au Moyen Âge. Paris: Parigramme. pp. 238 pp. ISBN 2840964023. 
  1. "Archives de la Bastille" collected by francais Ravaisson Mollien, printed by Paris : A. Durand et Pedone-Lauriel, 1866-1904

Other websites

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