Place de la Bastille, Bajana
About Place de la Bastille
Early history of the Bastille
The Bastille was built between 1370 and 1383 during the reign of King Charles V as part of the defenses of Paris, the structure was converted into a state prison in the 17th century by Richelieu, who was king Louis XIII's chief minister. At that time it primarily housed political prisoners, but also religious prisoners, "seditious" writers, and young rakes held at the request of their families. It began to acquire a poor reputation when it became the main prison for those taken under lettres de cachet issued by the King of France. By the late 18th century, the building was made up of eight close-packed towers, around 24 m (80 ft) high, surrounding two courtyards and the armoury. The prisoners were held within the 5-7 story towers, each having a room around 4.6 m (15 ft) across and containing various articles of furniture. The infamous cachots (dungeons), the oozing, vermin-infested subterranean cells were no longer in use, since the respective reigns of Louis XV and Louis XVI, who both worked on reforming the penal system in France. The governor of the prison was given a daily allowance per prisoner, the amount depending on their status—from nineteen livres per diem for scientists and academics down to three for commoners. In terms of standards, there were many worse prisons in France, including the dreaded Bicêtre, also in Paris. However, in terms of popular literary accounts, the Bastille was a place of horror and oppression, a symbol of autocratic cruelty.
Storming of the Bastille
The confrontation between the commoners and the Ancien Régime ultimately led to the people of Paris storming the Bastille on July 14, 1789, following several days of disturbances. At this point, the prison was nearly empty, with only seven inmates: four counterfeiters, two madmen, and a young aristocrat who had displeased his father. The regular garrison consisted of about 80 '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 Monarchy shortly before 14 July. A crowd of around 600 people 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. In the early afternoon, 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. De Launay ordered a ceasefire; despite his surrender demands being refused, he capitulated and the victors swept in to liberate the fortress at around 5:30.
On 16 June 1792, the area occupied by the Bastille was turned into a square celebrating liberty, and a column would be erected there. The first stone was laid by Palloy; however, construction never took place, and a fountain was built instead in 1793. In 1808, as part of several urban improvement projects for Paris, Napoléon planned to have a monument in the shape of an elephant built here, the Elephant of the Bastille. It was designed to be 24 m (78 ft) in height, and to be cast from the bronze of cannons taken from the Spanish. Access to the top was to be achieved by a stairway set in one of the legs. However, only a full-scale plaster model was built. Victor Hugo immortalized the monument in the novel Les Misérables where it is used as a shelter by Gavroche. The monument was demolished in 1846. In 1833, Louis-Philippe decided to build the July Column as originally planned in 1792. It was inaugurated in 1840.