This section is from the book "A Library Of Wonders And Curiosities Found In Nature And Art, Science And Literature", by I. Platt. Also available from Amazon: A library of wonders and curiosities.
This famous prison was originally the castle of Paris, and was built by order of Charles v., between the years 1370 and 1383, by Hugo Aubriot, Provost of Paris, at the Porte St. Antoine as a defense against the English. Afterwards when it came to be used as a State prison it was provided during the 16th and 17th centuries with vast bulwarks and ditches. On each of its longer sides it had four towers of five stories each, over which ran a gallery which was armed with cannon. It was partly in these towers and partly in cellars under the level of the ground that the prison was situated. The unfortunate inmates of these abodes were so effectually removed from the world without as often to be entirely forgotten, and in some cases it was found impossible to discover either their origin or the cause of their incarceration.
Destruction Of The Bastile.
The Bastile was capable of containing 70 or 80 prisoners, a number frequently reached during the reigns of Louis XIV. and XY. Though small compared with the number which an ordinary prison contains, these numbers were considerable when we reflect that they rarely ever consisted of persons of the lower ranks or such as were guilty of actual crimes, but of those who were sacrificed to political despotism, court intrigue, ecclesiastical tyranny, or had fallen victims to family quarrels. On the 14th of July, 1789, the fortress was surrounded by an armed mob, which the reactionary policy of the Court had driven into fury, and to the number of which every moment added. The garrison consisted of 82 old soldiers and 32 Swiss. The negotiations which were entered into with the King led to no other result than the removal of the cannon posted on the Faubourg St. Antoine, which by no means contented the exasperated mul-titude. Some one cut the chains of the first drawbridge, and a contest took place, in which one of the besieged and 150 of the people were killed or wounded; but the arrival of a portion of the troops, which had already joined the people, with four field pieces, turned the fortunes of the conflict in favor of the besiegers. be Launay, the Governor, who had been prevented by one of his officers, when on the point of blowing the prison into the air, permitted the second drawbridge to be lowered, and the people rushed in, killing De Launay himself and several of his officers. The destruction of the Bastile commenced on the following day amid the thunder of cannon and the pealing of the Te Deum. This event in itself apparently of no great moment, leading only to the release of three unknown prisoners, one of whom had been its tenant for thirty years, broke the spirit of the Court party, and changed the current of events in France.