La Place de la Bastille

Paris is renowned for its historic and beautiful, ‘places’ or squares. One of the most historically significant is La Place de La Bastille which is located in the quaint little quartier known as Le Marais.

La Place de la Bastille
La Place de la Bastille

La Place de la Bastille takes its name from the infamous prison that stood there from 1390 to 1790. Built originally as a fort which formed part of the defences of the old city, the building was converted into a prison by Charles VI in the 17th century. Anyone who opposed the Monarchy or the Church was incarcerated there. La Bastille soon became the most feared and loathed institution in the country, a symbol of injustice and oppression.

It was, significantly, against the Bastille that first blow of the French Revolution was struck. On July 14, the Revolutionaries stormed the building, freed its (few, as it happened) remaining prisoners and liberated the large cache of arms stored there.

By July 14 1790, the last stone of the detested prison had been torn down and carted away.  After the Revolution, the area occupied by the prison became a square celebrating liberty. La Colonne de Juillet, a column to commemorate the Revolution was placed at its centre. The outline of the original prison building is marked out in paving stones on the streets.

While 21st century Parisian traffic whirls in a relentless circle around La Place de la Bastille and modern buildings hover at its edges, there is still something about this corner of Paris that inspires a certain feeling awe and even a slight frisson of fear.

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