Place de la Bastille | Historically associated with the French Revolution

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Built to replace the Bastille fortress, this square is now a place in which many events are held, and is part of a very lively district.

Place de la Bastille sounds like a distant echo of the French Revolution. Prison, stronghold… These are the first words that come to mind when you think of this place, but in fact its history is long and chequered.

A little history…

It all began when Charles V decided to widen the Saint-Antoine gate to build a fortress that would offer him protection. The design of the fortress marked a turning point in the art of defence because its two-storey structure was made of foundations with crossbow hatches in the mound and of a terrace supported by buttresses. The provost Hughes Aubriot laid the first stone in 1370 and the site was completed in 1382. Ironically, he would become one of its first prisoners. Apart from the prison, La Bastille also contained a barracks, an arsenal and a strongbox. However, despite the innovative appearance of the complex, the Bastille, placed under siege seven times during various civil wars, surrendered without resistance on six occasions. It became a state prison in the 17th century. Almost empty since 1784, it would become the stage on which the French Revolution was played out. On 14 July 1789, Parisians took up arms and went to the foot of the fortress. The Marquis de Launay, governor of the Bastille, capitulated and the entire garrison was killed. By the end of the year, the Bastille was almost completely destroyed. As early as 1792, it was proposed to build a column at the centre of this new square, on the top of which would stand a symbol of triumphant liberty. The project came to nothing, and when Napoleon I took power, he wanted to build a fountain on it. Only the pedestal had been built when Louis XVIII came to power. The king entrusted Jean-Antoine Alavoine (1778-1834) with the job of commemorating the Revolution that had brought him to power. The architect decided to make use of the existing pedestal to build a column. On his death, his successor Joseph-Louis Duc (1802-1879) kept the idea, but modified the Doric column that was initially planned into a Corinthian column. Placed in the centre of the square, today the July column stands 47 metres tall. Its decoration represents the three days of fighting in 1830 and lists the names of the 504 fighters killed during the battles. At the summit stands the Génie de la Liberté by the sculptor Augustin-Alexandre Dumont (1801-1884), an echo of the original project. It holds a torch in its right hand and the broken chains of tyranny in its left. A crypt was fitted underneath the column to house the bodies of the victims and it can be seen from the cruise boats that go from Bastille to La Villette.


Other information:

The area around the square is very lively at night because of the many cafés and restaurants that are in the vicinity of the Bastille opera house.


Source images Paris-is-beautiful.com / Happiness as an Art de Vivre :

1167-PLACEDELABASTILLE          Source : Shutterstock – Libre de droits /1168-PLACEDELABASTILLE          Source : Shutterstock – Libre de droits

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