The Bastille was a prison that stood in downtown Paris, France, until 1789. The destruction of the Bastille is the iconic event associated with the popular start of the French Revolution.
Engraving courtesy the Library of Congress
On July 14, 1789, French revolutionaries stormed the Bastille prison in Paris. Originally a medieval fortress, by 1789 the Bastille held only seven prisoners. Despite this, the large stone building was a looming symbol of royal authority and abuse of power. Armed Parisians approached the commander (called the governor) of the Bastille to persuade him to release weapons—in particular, gunpowder—stored there. When negotiations broke down, gunfire broke out between the military defenders of the Bastille and the Parisian citizens outside.
Nearly 100 citizens lost their lives before the Bastille fell later that day. The governor of the Bastille was captured and decapitated.
Louis XVI, the king of France, was told about the fall of the Bastille the next day. “Is it a revolt?” he asked his adviser. “No, sire. It is a revolution,” he was told.
person who offers informed advice about an issue.
person or organization responsible for making decisions.
to take or control.
protected place. Also called a fort.
having to do with the Middle Ages (500-1400) in Europe.
discussion or discourse leading to terms of an agreement.
buildings that house convicted criminals and people accused of a crime and awaiting trial.
rebellion or uprising.
overthrow or total change of government.
having to do with a monarchy.
something used to represent something else.