La Bastille: A History


Vive La Revolution and Its Memory

La Bastille is something that everyone remembers from history, or a least every French person. The storming of the Bastille marks the beginning of the French Revolution. Today the Bastille is no more but its memory has not faded. So what exactly is the story behind this column? 

A Prison Once Stood Here

The prison called the Bastille once stood at the location where this column stands. By the time of the French Revolution, the Bastille was already four hundred years old. It mostly held political prisoners, but also a few other special cases as well.

It was Destroyed During the French Revolution

On July 14, 1789 around six hundred people stormed the Bastille, which had a total of seven prisoners. They went in looking for weapons and quickly overpowered the veteran garrison who were no longer fit for field battle. While the Bastille was not destroyed immediately, by the end of the war, the Bastille was no more.

Napoleon had Other Plans for the Site

Napoleon had originally planned to have an elephant built to commemorate the prison. A model was even built to scale in preparation for the marble. Even Victor Hugo thought the Elephant was going to be the statue for Place de la Bastille, so in his book Les Miserables he had Gavroche hide in the elephant. But as Napoleon's reign came to an end, so did this plan.

The July Column

The July Column was originally planned to be built in 1792. And it was supposed to honor the French Revolution. But only a single stone was laid and then everything stopped. Finally, the column was constructed between 1835 and 1840 and was built to commemorate the glorious days in July as a new monarch was installed. This location once again fell to turmoil as the throne of Louis-Philippe was burned here and 200 people were killed in the 1848 Revolution that plagued many countries of Europe. I'm sensing a pattern with this location.

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