La Bastille The Bastille, a fortress prison built in the 14th century, is arguably one of the most recognizable Paris landmarks, thanks to its role in the popular literary work, “Les Miserables.” Interestingly though, the landmark itself is no longer in existence, but is marked by a commemorative statue, the July Column. Although it is most famously known as a prison, the Bastille actually began its existence as a fortress, built during the Hundred Years’ War to protect the eastern end of the city. After the war, Louis XIII became the first king to house prisoners behind its walls. The Bastille was also used as a storage center for munitions, and in July 14, 1789, revolutionaries stormed the Bastille to gain access to the artillery, with hopes of overthrowing the government. After negotiations which ended in rioting, a crowd of more than 8,000 citizens entered the Bastille, removed the munitions, and freed the remaining prisoners. The French Revolution had begun. Recognized by the revolutionaries as a symbol of corrupt power, the building was largely demolished in November 1789, and its stones were used in the construction of the Pont de la Concorde. Today, the location of the Bastille is known as the Place de la Bastille, and is home to the Opera Bastille. The event was commemorated one year later by the Fête de la Fédération. The French national holiday, celebrated annually on 14 July is officially the Fête Nationale, and officially commemorates the Fête de la Fédération, but it is commonly known in English as Bastille Day. Bastille is a French word meaning “castle” or “stronghold”, or “bastion”; used with a definite article (la Bastille in French, the Bastille in English), it refers to the prison. The Bastille was built as the Bastion de Saint-Antoine during the Hundred Years’ War. The Bastille originated as the Saint-Antoine gate, but from 1370-1383 this gate was extended to create a fortress to defend the east end of Paris and the Hôtel Saint-Pol royal palace. After the war, it was reused as a state prison, with Louis XIII the first king to send prisoners there. Plan of the Bastille. The Bastille was built as an irregular rectangle with eight towers, 70 meters (220 ft.) long, 30 meters (90 ft) wide, with towers and walls 25 meters (80 ft) high, surrounded by a broad moat. Originally there were two courtyards inside and residential buildings against the walls. Pairs of towers on the east and west facades served as gates through which the rue Saint-Antoine passed. In the 1400s, these were blocked up, and a new city gate was created to the north on the present day rue de la Bastille. A bastion on the eastern approaches was built later. A very significant military feature of the building was that the walls and towers were of the same height and width and connected by a broad terrace. This enabled soldiers on the wall head to rapidly move to a threatened sector of the fortress without having to descend inside the towers, as well as allowing placement of artillery. A similar provision can be seen today at Château de Tarascon.