Sites and Sounds of Revolutionary Paris

Revolutionary Tradition and Les Mis
Revolution 1789
--The Monarchy
--Tennis Court Oath
--Fall of the Bastille
--October Days
--Declaration of War
--Palace Invaded
--Louis XVI
--Reign of Terror
-- Fall of Robespierre
--At war
1789 in Les Miserables
--The Terror
--The People
--The Students
--The Monarchy
--Place de Concord
--Notre Dame
Daily Sites
--Street Names
--Children's Names and Games
Works Consulted

The Grand Bastille

Twenty years ago, there was still to be seen in the south- west corner of the Place de la Bastille, near the basin of the canal, excavated in the ancient ditch of the fortress-prison, a singular monument, which has already been effaced from the memories of Parisians, and which deserved to leave some trace, for it was the idea of a "member of the Institute, the General- in-chief of the army of Egypt."

Victor Hugo Les Miserable, Saint Denise book 6, chapter 2

 This picture of the Bastille was taken from Simon Schama's book Citizen pg 389.

The notorious Bastille of France, located at No. 32 rue Saint-Antoineand, was for some time, except for during the July uprising, open for the locals to come and converse with the lingering guards (Schama 389). Eight thick columns five feet thick towered above the people below, complementing the many myths surrounding the fortress (389).

The Bastille was originally built for defense purposes against the English at the end of the fourteenth century, and then Charles VI turned it into a prison(390).

The crimes of the criminals incarcerated ranged from conspirators against the crown to religious prisoners. They formed two classes of prisoners: seditious writers and troublemakers. One of the most famous prisoners of the Bastille was one of the great figures of the enlightenment: Voltaire, who was imprisoned, for his ideas on religious toleration.

Black and White painting Simon Schamas book citizen pg 389. 

The cells of the prisoners were not as harsh as those of other prisons of the time. At one point under Louis XVI, the cells were furnished with thick green curtains and furnished with furniture. Games were introduced later, along with lengthy visits from friends and the "criminals" were even allowed to have pets to keep themselves amused (Schama 388).

To many citizens of France, the Bastille symbolized royal absolutism. For this reason on July 14, 1789 the Bastille was surrounded by mobs of Parisian citizens demanding the release of the remaining political prisoners. However, the commander Marquis de Launay refused to give up and the mob stormed the Bastille. Inside the angry mob found only seven prisoners left and soon after the Bastille was torn down (Webster 435).

In 1880 July 14th was commemorated as Bastille Day, the French national holiday, and is celebrated with fireworks and parades. The storming of the Bastille and its eventual collapse caused the monument to take on a new symbolism for the people of Paris: one of national sovereignty and revolutionary tradition.