Brief History of the Sewers
| The Bastille as a Symbol of
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.
-Lüsebrink, p 9-10
Bernaville was the governor
of the Bastille during the imprsionment of Renneville,
from 1702 to 1713.
2.1 The Paris Bastille
This poem accompanied an account of the Bastille by Constantin
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,
2.2 Liberators discover prisoners in the
|"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
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 assert,
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
Accounts of the living standards in the Bastille vary.
- Some prisoners attest to torture and being chained in
dark, damp cells.
- Other accounts claim that prisoners of the Bastille
were among the bast-treated prisoners in Europe at the
|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 linnen of extraordinary fineness and
for lace" -Lüsebrink,
|A Brief History of the Paris Bastille
|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
|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.
|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.