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Bastille (băstēl´) [O.Fr.,=fortress], fortress and state prison in Paris, located, until its demolition (started in 1789), near the site of the present Place de la Bastille. It was begun c.1369 by Hugh Aubriot, provost of the merchants [mayor] of Paris under King Charles V. Arbitrary and secret imprisonment by lettre de cachet gave rise to stories of horror, but actually the Bastille was generally used for persons of influence, and its regime for most political prisoners was mild. As a symbol of absolutism the Bastille was hated. It had strategic importance, for its guns commanded one of the gates of Paris. On July 14, 1789, a Parisian crowd stormed the Bastille in the hope of capturing ammunition. The governor was killed; the seven inmates, none of them political prisoners, were freed. The storming of the Bastille marks the beginning of the French Revolution, and July 14—Bastille Day—became the national holiday of republican France.

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Bastille a fortress in Paris built in the 14th century and used in the 17th–18th centuries as a state prison. Its storming by the mob on 14 July 1789 marked the start of the French Revolution; the anniversary of this event (Bastille Day) is kept as a national holiday in France.

The name comes (via Old French) from Provençal bastida, from bastir ‘build’.

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Bastille Fortress and prison in Paris, built in the late 14th century and destroyed during the French Revolution. Political prisoners were incarcerated here, and it became a symbol of royal oppression. On July 14, 1789, now a national holiday in France, a revolutionary mob stormed it, captured the ammunition store and released its seven prisoners. The Bastille was pulled down soon afterwards.

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1. As bastion (1).

2. Fortified tower.

3. Small fortress.

4. Name of the C14 Parisian prison-fortress destroyed in 1789, so synonymous with a gaol.