On July 14, 1789, a crowd of French citizens began to gather in front of the Bastille, an armory and political prison in the heart of Paris. The massive and disturbing structure was seen by French citizens as a symbol of the authoritarian rule of the monarchy. The governor of the Bastille, Bernard-René Jourdan de Launay, invited some protest leaders inside to negotiate.
As the negotiations dragged on, the crowd stirred. Members of what was then a sort of crowd scaled the walls of the Bastille and lowered the drawbridge. They then burst in. De Launay ordered his troops to shoot at the crowd. Nearly 100 revolutionaries were killed in the siege. The tide changed when the French Guard arrived and joined the revolutionaries, unleashing cannon fire on the Bastille and forcing de Launay to surrender.
The Bastille was systematically demolished and the capture of the fortress was both an inflection point for the revolution and a symbol of the violence that characterized it, violence which reached its climax with the Reign of Terror a few years later. In 1790, a large event known as the Fête de la Fédération was held to celebrate the revolution. Now known as the Fête Nationale or Bastille Day, it is celebrated with traditional festivals, a massive military parade and other festivities. These places are rich in the history of this tumultuous time, and the perfect places to learn more.