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- Created 2012-03-01
(bastij) was a
in Paris, known formally as the
. It played an important role in the internal conflicts of France and for most of its history was used as a state prison by the
kings of France
. It was
by a crowd on 14 July 1789 in the
, becoming an important symbol for the French Republican movement, and was later demolished and replaced by the
Place de la Bastille
The Bastille was built to defend the eastern approach to the city of Paris from the English threat in the
Hundred Years War
. Initial work began in 1357, but the main construction occurred from 1370 onwards, creating a strong fortress with eight towers that protected the strategic gateway of the
on the eastern edge of Paris. The innovative design proved influential in both France and England and was widely copied. The Bastille figured prominently in France's domestic conflicts, including the fighting between the rival factions of the
in the 15th century, and the
Wars of Religion
in the 16th. The fortress was declared a state prison in 1417; this role was expanded first under the
of the 1420s and 1430s, and then under
in the 1460s. The defences of the Bastille were fortified in response to the English and
threat during the 1550s, with a
constructed to the east of the fortress. The Bastille played a key role in the rebellion of the
battle of the faubourg Saint-Antoine
, which was fought beneath its walls in 1652.
used the Bastille as a prison for upper-class members of French society who had opposed or angered him including, after the revocation of the Edict of Nantes, French
s. From 1659 onwards, the Bastille functioned primarily as a state penitentiary; by 1789, 5,279 prisoners had passed through its gates. Under
, the Bastille was used to detain prisoners from more varied backgrounds, and to support the operations of the Parisian police, especially in enforcing government censorship of the printed media. Although inmates were kept in relatively good conditions, criticism of the Bastille grew during the 18th century, fueled by autobiographies written by former prisoners. Reforms were implemented and prisoner numbers were considerably reduced. In 1789 the royal government's financial crisis and the formation of the
gave rise to a swelling of republican sentiments among city-dwellers. On 14 July the Bastille was stormed by a Revolutionary crowd, primarily residents of the
Saint-Antoine who sought to commandeer the valuable gunpowder held within the fortress. Seven remaining prisoners were found and released and the Bastille's governor,
Bernard-René de Launay
, was killed by the crowd. The Bastille was demolished by order of the
Committee of the Hôtel de Ville
. Souvenirs of the fortress were transported around France and displayed as icons of the overthrow of
. Over the next century, the site and historical legacy of the Bastille featured prominently in French
, political protests and popular fiction, and it remained an important symbol for the French Republican movement.
Almost nothing is left of the Bastille except some remains of its stone foundation that were relocated to the side of the Boulevard Henri IV. Historians were critical of the Bastille in the early 19th century, but now believe the fortress to have been a relatively well-administered institution, albeit deeply implicated in the system of French policing and political control during the 18th century.
from Wikipedia (last updated: 18 May), licensed under
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Video accompanying 2011 exhibition at the Bibliothèque nationale de France
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