Place de la Bastille is the famous Parisian square in the historic center of the city.An open space, where dozens of boulevards and streets intersect, is a symbol of the French capital. The name comes from the French word bastide (fortification). There was a fortress-prison, destroyed during the French Revolution of 1789.
Bastille – fortified fort
After a 100-year war with England, in which France was defeated, Charles V began to build fortifications to protect Paris. The Bastille Fortress is part of the walls to protect the city, erected in the XIV century.
A massive quadrangular fort with walls 4 meters wide, 8 towers 22 meters high and a courtyard was arranged so that both the city and the outskirts of Paris could be seen by the guards far around.
On all sides the fortress was surrounded by a wide and deep moat with a suspension bridge thrown over it, closed by a thick wall.
King Charles V often visited the impregnable Bastille: here he felt safe from the wrath of the people and enemy attacks.
Over the years, the purpose of the fortress changed: an armory and a reception room under Francis I, a safe of the royal treasury under Henry IV, were set up here.
During the reign of Louis XIII, Cardinal de Richelieu in 1476 made it a state prison, where the opponents of the king and his regime were locked up. In the towers, cells for prisoners were arranged, where light penetrated through a narrow latticed window in the ceiling. The cells were always semi-dark.
Prisoners were sent to the Bastille without trial or investigation by the will of the king, so those who glorified freedom of speech were imprisoned: Voltaire, Labomel, Marmottel and Lenguet, Brissot and the Marquis de Sade, Beaumarchais and Michel Montaigne.
By the beginning of the French Revolution, the fortress contained aristocrats who fell out of favor with a large staff of servants and doctors who had no right to leave the Bastille until the end of their masters’ term.
Hugo Ubriot , a native of Dijon, arrived in the capital at the invitation of the monarch and received an order for the construction of the Bastille. The wealthy townspeople did not like Aubrio’s successes, they were waiting for the opportunity to destroy the provincial.
Soon the opportunity presented itself: Aubrio was caught in a criminal cohabitation with a Jewess. He, pleasing his beloved, spat on the Crucifixion and trampled on it with his feet, for which the Inquisition sentenced him to be burned at the stake.
On the scaffold erected on the square of Notre Dame Cathedral, Aubriot knelt before the bishop, begging for mercy. Considering past merits, death at the stake was replaced by life imprisonment and confiscation of property. So the architect of the Bastille ended up in a fortress-prison, which he himself built.
At the end of 1382, during a revolt against tax collectors, the Parisians freed Aubriot from the Bastille, where he spent 4 years. The rebels offered him to become the head of the movement, but he, shocked by his imprisonment, refused and went to his home in Burgundy, where he died a year later.
“It is better to be silent about the Bastille than to speak.”
Having become a prison, the fortress turned into a symbol of tyranny: prisoners were kept in dungeons without trial and released by the king’s permission, and a person could end up in the Bastille at any time.
Under the Bourbon rule, the ladies of the court for the New Year received gifts from the ministers: secret orders for imprisonment in the Bastille with the name of the prisoner missing. Having entered the right name, the ladies were freed from their annoying husband or just an uncomfortable face.
Often such an order was sold by the king’s servants for a very reasonable price, so that the “direction” to the Bastille was bought freely. Prisoners who were trapped by the king’s order were held in captivity from several days to tens of years. Sometimes the prisoner was completely forgotten, and he remained in prison until the end of his days.
Under Louis XI, iron cages appeared in the prison-fortress , in which it is impossible to stand upright or lie down – just sit bent over. The king called such cells his daughters.
Wilhelm de Horacourt, the bishop of Verdun, convicted of treason to the king, was the first to experience the torments of confinement in such a cage. He languished in an iron cage for 10 years.
Those, whom they wanted to get rid of as soon as possible, were hidden in underground chambers-decks at a depth of 6 meters, where the walls never dried out in complete darkness.
The death penalty in the Bastille was distinguished by refined cruelty. The death row inmate was taken from a deep well to a clean, bright room with the scent of forest flowers and herbs for a conversation with the commandant.
The bomber listened to the promise of an imminent pardon, relaxed and calmed down. After the conversation, the floor fell under the unfortunate man, and he fell onto a wheel studded with sharp knives. An invisible hand set the wheel in motion, and the prisoner was cut into pieces.
Parisians at all times said: “About the Bastille it is better to be silent than to speak.” By the end of the 18th century, hatred of the Bastille reached its peak. The maintenance of the prison was very expensive for the king, and he was preparing a decree on the dissolution of the institution, but did not have time.
French Revolution and Bastille
On July 14, 1789, armed Parisians approached the Bastille, captured the fortress, beheaded the commandant and hanged the soldiers, releasing the prisoners, who at that time numbered 7 people.
An angry crowd roamed the streets of Paris with the head of the Bastille commandant impaled on a stake, celebrating the triumph of “justice.” 2 days after the capture of the fortress, the walls of the hated stronghold were razed to the ground by the people. In the open space, they installed a sign “From now on they dance and laugh here.”
From the broken stone of the fortress, Parisian craftsmen made miniature copies of the prison and sold them to those who wish. The Bastille stones were also useful in the construction of the Conrad Bridge.
Place de la Bastille – the memory of the Parisians
In 1794, on June 9-14, in an open place left from the Bastille, a guillotine was installed and 75 people were beheaded, intoxicating freedom took on a bloodthirsty appearance.
The square on the site of the demolished fortress appeared in 1803 . In the center, in the open space – 215 * 150 meters – Napoleon Bonaparte wanted to see a bronze monument with a fountain in the form of a huge elephant, 24 meters high. They managed to build only a plaster model, which was removed in 1831.
Since 1880, July 14 – Bastille Day – the main national holiday in France.
From a triple row of paving stones, a line was laid out on the square, indicating the perimeter of the fort destroyed at that time. On the marble board of house No. 1 there is a plan of the fortress-prison.
Now the square is always lively, cafes and restaurants are full of people. On the night of July 14, the square, solemn and beautiful, hosts the largest ball in Paris, ending with a festive fireworks.
On this day, the French organize parades, fairs and festivities, concerts, fireworks and picnics. Masquerades and demonstrations of French political parties are also held here.
Since 1998, 28,000 rollerblades have been rollerblading from Place de la Bastille on Sundays, accompanied by a police unit on rollerblades for safety.
Place de la Bastille is loved by Parisian youth, there are many clubs and trendy restaurants, bars and cafes.
Places of interest in Paris
There are always many tourists on the Place de la Bastille who are interested in sights.
Since 1840, an 80-meter bronze column rises in the center of the Place de la Bastille . The building appeared to perpetuate 3 days of the triumph of the July 1830 revolution as a time of civil liberties.
After the overthrow of King Charles X, who fled the country, power passed to the new monarch, the “citizen king” Duke of Orleans Louis Philippe.
At the top of the monument, designed by Jean-Antoine Alavuan, there is a golden Angel “Spirit of Freedom”. In one hand, the Angel holds a broken chain – a symbol of the struggle against the despotism of the deposed Charles X, in the other – a torch, in his forehead – a flaming star.
The height of the Corinthian-style column is 50.52 meters; a staircase with 140 steps leads to the observation deck of the column.
At the foot of the monument there is a bas-relief and a memorial plaque, where the names of the inhabitants of Paris who died on the barricades during the July Revolution of 1830 and 1848 are immortalized.
In 1984, the old station on the Place de la Bastille, which turned out to be unclaimed, was dismantled and a modern Opera building was built, implementing the projects of François Metterand for the development of Paris.
The round-shaped building made of glass looks unusual against the background of ordinary buildings, which is why many Parisians criticize it.
Designed by the Canadian-Uruguayan architect Carlos Ott, the musical theater opened in 1989 to celebrate the 200th anniversary of the Bastille.
The Great Hall of the Opera is designed for 2703 seats, 500 spectators are accommodated in the amphitheater. The acoustics of the hall and the technical equipment of the stage are at the highest level.
To the south of the Place de la Bastille there is a small harbor for boats and yachts 544 m long, 70 m wide and 1.9 m deep. The harbor got its name because of the weapons depot that was here in the 16th-18th centuries.
The vicinity of the harbor is a quiet place where the noise of the city does not reach, and seagulls fly over the water. Travelers sailing along the Seine from the Port of Arsenal see Paris from a different, unusual and graceful perspective.
Not far from the square is a beautiful garden planted along the old railway viaduct. Parisians and tourists walk here, enjoying the clean air and silence.
Here is the first line of the Paris Metro, which is 100 years old. Underground – beautiful frescoes that tell the story of the capture of the Bastille. At the exit from the metro there is an entrance group with an iron fence and decorations.