bastille prison

The Bastille: A Jewel of Paris’ History

Paris, a city known for its rich history and beautiful architecture, boasts countless iconic landmarks. Yet, few resonate with the same historical gravity as the Bastille. This fortress turned prison became a symbol of the French Revolution, its name forever associated with the struggle for liberty. Let’s delve into the tale of this formidable edifice.

Unraveling the History of the Bastille

The Origins of the Bastille

Built in the 14th century during the Hundred Years’ War, the Bastille was initially intended to defend Paris against the English. It was named Bastille Saint-Antoine, after the historic Parisian district it occupied.

The Bastille as a Royal Prison

By the 17th century, the Bastille began serving as a state prison. Its prisoners were not ordinary criminals, but individuals who posed a threat to royal power. These could be writers, thinkers, and other figures whose ideas or actions were deemed disruptive.

The Storming of the Bastille

The 14th of July, 1789, marks a significant date in history: the Storming of the Bastille. This event was a pivotal moment in the French Revolution, symbolizing the fall of the monarchy and the rise of the common people.

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The Bastille’s Significance in French Revolution

The Aftermath of Bastille Day

Following the Storming, the Bastille was torn down by revolutionaries. Its destruction represented the end of an oppressive era and the dawn of a new one focused on liberty, equality, and fraternity.

The Bastille’s Role in the Rise of the Republic

The Bastille’s fall played a crucial role in the subsequent rise of the French Republic. It sparked revolutionary fervor that eventually overthrew the Bourbon Monarchy, leading to the establishment of the First French Republic.

The Bastille Today

The July Column

Where the Bastille once stood, you will now find the July Column, a monument erected to commemorate the Revolution of 1830. The column, with its gilded statue, “The Spirit of Freedom,” is a powerful symbol of the French people’s enduring pursuit of liberty.

The New Bastille: An Icon of Paris

Today, the Bastille is a vibrant neighborhood, filled with bustling shops, cafés, and the renowned Bastille Opera. Although the original fortress is no longer standing, its legacy lives on in the spirit of the district and its people.

Interesting Facts about the Bastille

The Secret Tunnels of the Bastille

Did you know that the Bastille housed secret tunnels? These were designed for the covert transportation of high-profile prisoners and provide a fascinating glimpse into the fortress’s shadowy past.

The Bastille Key: A Token of Alliance

After the Storming, the key to the Bastille was sent to George Washington as a symbol of Franco-American friendship and shared dedication to liberty. It is currently displayed at Mount Vernon, Washington’s home.

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The Bastille, far more than a mere fortress or prison, stands as a poignant symbol of the fight for freedom. Its story is deeply interwoven with the fabric of France, reflecting the nation’s tumultuous journey towards democracy. Despite its physical absence, the Bastille continues to cast a long shadow, reminding us of the enduring power of the people in shaping history.


  1. What was the Bastille? The Bastille was a fortress in Paris, built in the 14th century. It later served as a state prison and was stormed and destroyed during the French Revolution in 1789.
  2. Why is the Bastille significant? The Bastille is a symbol of the French Revolution. Its storming marked the beginning of the Revolution and the fall of the Bourbon Monarchy.
  3. What stands at the site of the Bastille today? Today, the July Column stands at the site of the former Bastille. The area is a vibrant neighborhood with numerous shops, cafés, and the Bastille Opera.
  4. Who were the prisoners of the Bastille? The Bastille held prisoners who were deemed a threat to royal power, such as writers and thinkers whose ideas or actions were considered disruptive.
  5. What happened to the key of the Bastille? The key of the Bastille was given to George Washington as a symbol of the shared commitment to liberty between France and America. It is now displayed at Mount Vernon, Washington’s home.

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