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Cultural events

The "Bastille" or "Living in Hell"


  • L’Enfer des vivans ou la Bastille - Événements des plus rares, ou l’Histoire du Sr Abbé Cte de Buquoy, 1719 © BnF, Arsenal Library

    L’Enfer des vivans ou la Bastille - Événements des plus rares, ou l’Histoire du Sr Abbé Cte de Buquoy, 1719

  • Practical information

  • Arsenal Library

    From Tuesday to Sunday
    noon - 7 p.m.

    Free access

from November 9, 2010 to February 13, 2011 Arsenal Library

The “Bastille” no longer exists; however, it is still very vivid in French collective memory and documented by the archive material kept at the Arsenal Library. During the taking of the Bastille, the archives stored in the fortress were thrown into the ditches by rioters. In 1798, after various misfortunes, they were recovered by the Administrator of the Arsenal Library. They did not arouse much interest until the 20th century when they were progressively unveiled, and gained a particular aura.

The fortress had been erected during the reign of Charles V to defend eastern Paris. It always served as a jail during the reign of Louis XIV; however, it became a symbol of royal despotism, since it housed political prisoners, sometimes under arbitrary arrest. The Bastille was often said to be a prison for the upper class; however, it housed prisoners from different social classes, from “VIPs” to lower class villains. The exhibition intends to show the gap between the reality as shown by the archive material and tale stories about the fortress. In doing so, it provides visitors with a picture of French society under the Ancien Régime until its fall.

Several outstanding pieces are presented, among which a monumental model of the Bastille, a so-called “shirt” with a text written with his blood by the famous prisoner Latude and many other fascinating archive materials. A tangible emotion arises from these documents frequently still spattered with mud, that bear autographs of famous people or the writing of humble prisoners.

Guided tours

From November the 18th, some guided tours (in french) will be proposed on Thursdays at 3 p.m.
Registration at 01 53 79 49 49
Payment on site

Monday, September 27, 2010

See also