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By Jon Jared
The Bastille has long been an important figure in Frances history. Built as a fortress during the hundred year war, it has switched colors frequently and served as a castle, a treasury, and lastly a prison. When it was first converted into a prison by Charles VI it was primarily used to hold political prisoners.
One of the most mysterious prisoners that the Bastille housed was the man in the iron mask. The first official report of this prisoner was written by the Officer-in-Charge of the main tower of the Pinerolo or Pignerol Fortress, Benigne d'Auvergne de St-Mars. At that time, January 1665-April 1681, there were five prisoners under his control and one of them is thought to be the mysterious man in the mask.
Contemporary claims about his identity included that he was a Marshal of France; or Oliver Cromwell; or François de Vendôme, Duc de Beaufort. Later ones included James, Duke of Monmouth; Armenian patriarch Avedick; the playwright Molière; and the unacknowledged older or twin brother of Louis XIV. The last name on the list is widely thought to have been added by Napoleon as a political rumor and this myth has been immortalized in Hollywood movies and works of fiction.
His death was sudden, so fast in fact that the prison chaplain had not been able to perform the last rites. The name - Monsieur de Marchiel - was entered into the register and his burial cost 40 livres (old pounds). The original death certificate was kept at the City Hall in Paris until 1871 when it, and the building, was destroyed in a fire. His final resting place was St. Paul's cemetery in Paris.
The most famous moment of the Bastille and one that secured its place in history is the event that started the French Revolution. On the morning of July 14th, 1789, a group of workmen broke into the Bastille, secured weapons, and took it over, freeing the seven remaining prisoners from their cells. The invasion had been forewarned and three hundred soldiers who were on rotation in the prison refused to show up for work that day.
This sparked the beginnings of the French revolution and would eventually lead to Frances independence. In three years France underwent a massive transformation from absolute monarchy to the development of a fair government that´s shadow is seen in modern-day governments today. The feudal, religious, and aristocratic systems that are prevalent in the history of France fell to new ideas of enlightenment that include inalienable rights and citizenship.
The event that is widely considered to be this transformations beginning is celebrated every year on Bastille Day. The Place de la Bastille is a square in Paris, where the Bastille prison stood until the 'Storming of the Bastille' and its subsequent physical destruction between 14 July 1789 and 14 July 1790 during the French Revolution; no vestige of it remains.
The Colonne de Juillet dominates la Place de la Bastille. It marks the site of the prison known as the Bastille which was stormed by the Mob in 1789 at the start of the French Revolution. In the subway station beneath the square, stones from the Bastille's foundation can still be seen. This square is also home to the Opéra Bastille completed in 1990.
Bastille hotels worth looking into include Classics hotel Bastille and the Holiday Inn Paris Bastille. The writer is intrigued by the French Revolution and spends his time researching it and writing about it when not travelling.
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