232 Rue Saint-Antoine

The Bastille, originally 232 Rue Saint-Antoine, was a fortress, a prison, and a historical sign built in Paris, in the 1300's. Though no longer still intact, it is still a very important part of France's history.
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  • The oldest parts of Bastille (A and B on model) were actually constructed in 1357, by Étienne Marcel.

  • It was in response to growing threats during the Hundred Years War (a conflict between France and England)
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  • In 1370, King Charles V wanted to further protect the eastern side of Paris by adding on to the two towers.

  • This was organized by Hugh Aubriot* under Charles V, and later, Charles VI.

  • First, two towers were built directly behind the originals (C and D), then, two more were built to the north (E and F), and then, finally, two were built to the south (G and H).

  • Walls were built in between the towers, creating an enclosed courtyard.

  • In the six newer towers, "calottes" (shell rooms) and "cachots" (dirty dungeons) were added.

  • Construction ended in 1380.

  • In 1716, an office wing was added. It held the interrogation room, the Bastille's library, and servants' rooms, as well as upper-class prisoners' chambers.

*Ironically, Aubriot was the first person to be jailed when Bastille became a prison. He was trialed for arresting citizens who harassed Jews, and imprisoned for false charges (extortion).

Towers of Bastille

There are 8 towers of Bastille-

  • Trésor

  • Bertaudière

  • La Chapelle

  • Liberté

  • Comté

  • Bazinière

  • Coin

  • Puits
The walls and towers were 24 m high and 3.0 m thick, and the whole fortress was 68 m wide and 37 m deep.

As a Prison


  • The Bastille officially became a prison in 1417, when Hugh Aubriot was imprisoned.

  • It remained a state prison under Louis XI, Charles IV, and Louis XIII, but was not often used, until the reign of Louis XIV (17th century).


  • During the 17th century, many prisoners were detained simply for annoying the king (Louis XIV) in some way.

  • This was the first example of absolutism (one person holding all power) in the Bastille, and would later enforce the decision to storm the prison.

  • Most of the prisoners were from the upper-class, and were allowed to live under good conditions- their rooms were ornately furnished, and they wore their own clothes. Despite this, the Bastille still gained a terrible reputation from outside rumors.
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  • The reign of Louis XV changed some things in life at Bastille- less people were imprisoned in total, and the majority of the prisoners were detained for legitimate reasons (thus, less prisoners were from the upper-class).

  • However, the Bastille still withheld its reputation of being a sign of the absolutism in France. This reputation was supported by the fact that many citizens also believed that life within the Bastille was much worse than it actually was.

Other Uses

  • The Bastille was also used as a fortress- many royals sought refuge in it.

  • The Arsenal, a large military complex that produced weaponry, was built near the Bastille, and, in response, a large bastion was added on to the it to provide additional protection for the Arsenal.

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Storming of the Bastille

By July of 1789, so many protests and criticisms had arisen from the public, and the number of prisoners had declined so much that officials decided to close the prison.

However, the public had every reason to storm the prison-

  • The French Revolution had just begun, and revolutionary spirit was high among the crowds.

  • The Bastille was to only remaining royalist figure in central Paris.

  • A prisoner of the Bastille was creating rumors about a massacre within the prison.

  • The Bastille already had a terrible reputation among citizens.

So, on July 14, 1789, a huge mob (900 people), armed with weapons, crowded around the Bastille. Shots were fired, and many were killed, but, by late afternoon, the governor of the Bastille had been killed, and the prison had been captured.

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The public decided to destroy the Bastille, and, in the same month, it was demolished.

Place de Bastille

Now, on the site of the Bastille, a square has been erected- Place de Bastille.

It is home to the Opéra Bastille, as well as the Colonne de Juillet.

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