The Real Paris
A City Divided
Paris & Politics
Space & Money
The Bastille as a Symbol of Tyranny
Mortals, be frightened by this
image of hell,
A tyrant rules here, the devil is his slave,
For Satan punishes only the guilty,
But Bernaville may cut down Innocence herself.
Bernaville was the governor of the Bastille
during the imprisonment of Renneville, from 1702 to 1713.
2.1 The Paris Bastille
This poem accompanied an account of the Bastille by Constantine
de Renneville, a middle class tax official who was incarcerated
in 1702 for spying for the Dutch government. His account of
suffering in the Bastille included sleeping with rats on damp
straw, eating only bread and water, and being exposed to extreme
cold. In one passage he says,
Liberators discover prisoners in the Bastille 1789
"Under an opening in the wall, I saw human bones; it
was like a cemetery, and since I found the cellar in parts
without paving, I dug and found a corpse wrapped in rags .
. . the warder said that they had kept the sorry remains in
his cell; two other men and one woman had suffered the same
fate." (Lüsebrink, 11)
Living in the Bastille
Eyewitness accounts by Renneville and others in the early
eighteenth century helped form the public opinion of the Bastille
which eventually made it a symbol of absolute power and terror.
Historians Hans-Jürgen Lüsebrink and Rolf Reichardt
Because it was centrally located, beyond
the rules of proper justice, and employed in such a
spectacular fashion, the Paris Bastille became the embodiment
of terrifying absolutist domination and despotism in
underground literature at the turn of the eighteenth
century. -Lüsebrink, 6
A Brief History of the Paris Bastille
Accounts of the living standards in the Bastille vary.
- Some prisoners attest to torture and being chained in dark,
- Other accounts claim that prisoners of the Bastille were
among the bast-treated prisoners in Europe at the time.
|One resident, perhaps the most famous of
those imprisoned in the Bastille was the Man in the Iron
Mask, thought by some to have been the twin brother of
Louis XIV. This prisoner "had the best accommodating
which that castle could afford: nothing which he desired
was refused him. His strongest passion was for linen of
extraordinary fineness and for lace" -Lüsebrink,
|The Bastille, originally called the
Chastel Saint-Antoine, was first built between 1356-1382 to serve
as a fort for the protection of the city. However, it became a
state prison under the reign of Cardinal Richelieu, and was used
to hold everyone from rebellion aristocrats and spies, to citizens
who provoked the king or refused to accept Catholicism.
|On July 14, 1789, 7,000 citizens broke
into the weapons depot at the Esplanade des Invalides and captured
several cannons and 40,000 rifles. There was, however, neither
gunpowder nor ammunition in the Esplanade. Anticipating a possible
riot, these had been transferred to the Bastille the night before.
2.3 Storming the Bastille, 1789
After several attempts to obtain the necessary supplies peacefully,
a mob of citizens gathered around the Bastille. The governor
of the Bastille fired on them. As a result,
. . .Citizens- mostly craftsmen from the Paris suburbs, small
merchants and former soldiers-streamed . . . to the Bastille
by the thousands, armed with pikes, knives, axes, and a few
solitary rifles. (XXX, ?)
The growing mob posed little threat to the fortress
until soldiers garrisoned there began to aid them. The mob
eventually took control of the fortress, obtained the gunpowder,
released the 7 prisoners, and killed the governor of the Bastille.