The Bastille's name was taken from the medieval French word bastide or fortress.

The Bastille was built to defend the east side of Paris. The Bastille was completed in 1382 with walls over 80 ft tall and surrounded by a moat.

It was used as a prison beginning in the 17th century.

Prisoners in the Bastille were given no trial; they were imprisoned on the King's orders and remained until he decided to release them.

Prisoners could bring in their own furniture and meals and the wealthy ones could even bring in their servants. Most of the prisoners could walk freely around the fortress, play games, even take up a hobby. Some of the more trusted prisoners were even allowed to go out into Paris on parole.

Bas*tile", Bas*tille" (?), n. [F. bastille fortress, OF. bastir to build, F. btir.]

1. Feud. Fort.

A tower or an elevated work, used for the defense, or in the siege, of a fortified place.

The high bastiles . . . which overtopped the walls. Holland.

2.

"The Bastille", formerly a castle or fortress in Paris, used as a prison, especially for political offenders; hence, a rhetorical name for a prison.

 

© Webster 1913.

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