Bastille ... Revolutions

I already posted about Place de la Bastille and the Bastille prison, tried to describe what it looked like, where it stood until it was attacked July 14th, 1789, what remains….
It took about a year, to have it completely demolished. It was then decided to make an open place here, celebrating liberty, and to erect a column.

However, Napoleon had the idea to build a monument in the shape of an elephant. A full scale plaster model was built, but never the real one. In 1833, it was decided to finally build the column originally planned, but now it would be dedicated to another Revolution, the 1830 July one. The column was inaugurated in 1840.
The other evening I was invited to a vernissage close to Place de la Bastille. On the way home, seeing the “Colonne de Juillet” (the July Column) reflected in some windows, including in those of the Bastille Opera, I thought I should have a closer look at it.
There are no pedestrian crossings to reach the middle of the place, so to reach it, and leave it, involved some danger, but as the serious blogger I am, I took the risk.

So, the column celebrates the “three glorious days” in July 1830, a second Revolution, which led to the replacement of Charles X by Louis-Philippe and what was supposed to be a more liberal constitution. In the meantime, there had been some 615 victims. You can read their names on the column. On the top of the column we find the “Génie de la Liberté” (Spirit of Freedom) with broken chains and the torch of civilisation. (Louis Philippe had to leave in 1848 after a third Revolution and the names of some additional 200 victims were added on the column.)
Hector Berlioz composed for the inauguration of the column the “Grand Funeral and Triumphal Symphony”. (You can listen to part of it in a version by the London Symphony Orchestra / Colin Davis – the illustration is the famous painting representing the 1830 Revolution by Delacroix – “Liberty Leading the People”.)

Not quite a revolution, but close to the place – on which they were not allowed - there was a little crowd of “indignés”, imitating the “indignados” of Puerta del Sol in Madrid.
Not bothering too much about such matters, there was already, in the early evening, a crowd of young people in the nearby famous rue de Lappe, previously famed for a number of cafés owned by natives from the Auvergne region, later more known for javas, musettes… Now remains one typical Auvergne restaurant and the “Balajo”… and a lot of clubs, bars and shops according to today’s fashion.

Addendum, June 16, afternoon:

Claude reminded me kindly about this song by Arisitide Bruant (1851-1925), recorded around 1910. The poster is of course by Toulouse-Lautrec.


Olivier said...

beau reflet du genie de la bastille , quartier que j'adore (parceque j'ai vecu a cote) et surtout le port de la bastille

French Girl in Seattle said...

Thanks Peter, informative post, as always. I lived in Paris for 10 years and go back every year (will be there in a few days in fact). Yet, i have never really taken a close look at the monument in the middle. I tend to refer to place de la Bastille as the "second craziest place to drive in Paris" (the first one being the place de l'Etoile, of course.) I will make sure to take a closer look when I get there but can't promise I will be as brave as you were when you crossed the place to get to the monument! Veronique aka French Girl in Seattle

Owen said...

Peter... how on earth did you manage to clamber up to the very top to take those pictures ??? Not only are you a serious, risk-taking blogger (but we already knew that after seeing you venture into dark caves) but also part monkey, I believe now. Bravo for having survived the traffic circle crossing ! You are a brave man !

Ken said...

I tip my hat to you for posting this mega-post! As always, you are very thorough. Thanks for the mini lecture on Place de la Bastille. :)

Vagabonde said...

You are very brave Peter to get to the column with all the traffic around it – I am pleased that you were not injured! When I was a young lady in Paris I would not have dreamed to go to Rue de Lappe – that was not a place where ladies “comme il faut” went. It had a very bad reputation. I guess it is better now?

Studio at the Farm said...

Peter, thank you for risking life and limb for those great photos!!!

Aitor Artaitz said...

Again a very good post, Peter. Thanks for remembering me this place in which I live for some days some years ago.

Pierre BOYER said...

Thanks a lot...


hpy said...

Paris, finalement c'est comme Evry, il s'y passe toujours quelque chose!

claude said...

C'est sympa de risquer ta vie pour nous faire un post.
I va y avoir du monde à la Bastille pour le 14 Juillet prochain.
Je viens de penser à une chanson sur la Bastille alors que j'avais tout d'abord pensé à une sur la rue de Lappe :

Tous les sam'dis soirs on allait
Comm' ça
Dans un bal musette pour danser
Comm' ça
Dans un vieux quartier fréquenté
Comm' ça
Par les danseurs de java
Comm' ça

Rue de Lappe
Rue de Lappe
Au temps joyeux
Où les frappes
Où les frappes
Etaient chez eux
Rue de Lappe
Rue de Lappe
En ce temps là
A petits pas on dansait la java

Les jul's portaient des casquettes
Sur leurs cheveux gominés
Avec de bell's rouflaquettes
Qui descendaient jusqu'au nez
Rue de Lappe
Rue de Lappe
C'était charmant
Rue de Lappe
Rue de Lappe
Mais plus prudent
Rue de Lappe
Rue de Lappe
Pour les enfants
De les emm'ner ce soir là au ciné
Plutôt que d'aller s'faire assassiner
Passez la monnaie
Passez la monnaie
Et ça tournait
Et plus ça tournait
Et plus ça tournait
Plus ça coûtait
Qu'est c'que ça coûtait
Qu'est c'que ça coûtait
Quelques tickets
Mais on n'les payait
Mais on n'les payait
Presque jamais

2 - Ceux qui n'sortaient pas de Polytechnique
Pour la politesse avaient leur Technique
Avec les gonzesses c'était à Coups d'trique
Qu'ils discutaient politique
Comm' ça

Rue de Lappe
Rue de Lappe
On rencontrait
Une frappe
Une frappe
Qui revenait
Rue de Lappe
Rue de Lappe
Pour respirer
Un peu d'air frais de ce bon vieux quartier
Il laissait à la Guyane
Son bel ensemble rayé
Pour cueillir le cœur d'ces dames
Comme une poire au poirier

Rue de Lappe
Rue de Lappe
C'était parfait
Rue de Lappe
Rue de Lappe
Oui mais oui mais
Rue de Lappe
Rue de Lappe
Par les poulets
Un soir de rafle il se faisait cueillir
Pour la Guyane il devait repartir
Passez la monnaie
Passez la monnaie
Et ça tournait
Pendant qu'ça tournait
Pendant qu'ça tournait
On l'emmenait
Et ça lui coûtait
Et ça lui coûtait
Quelques années
Mais il n'les faisait
Mais il n'les faisait
Presque jamais
Rue de Lappe
Rue de Lappe
Quand il rev'nait
Rue de Lappe
Rue de Lappe
Il r'commençait ....

joanna said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
joanna said...


This series - is some world class photo shots, more like something I would expect to find in the National Geographic -- interesting historic editorial as well.

I have been away from blogging will catch - up to what I have been missing here. But had to see Bastille Day , they celebrate it here in the Pacific Northwest where I live.. however, we do not have the pleasure of the 'real' historic architecture.

Cezar and Léia said...

Wow Peter, that first shot is awesome!

claude said...


C'est l'autre chanson à laquelle je pensais.
C'est une chanson bien parigotte !

nathalie said...

Historique passionnant, photos extrêmes (quel courage d'avoir traversé au péril de ta vie!), reportage d'actualité (les indignés), effets d'atmosphère (les restaurants très animés), tu nous offres encore une fois un billet multi-facettes qui révèle à la fois la richesse de Paris et l'ampleur de ta curiosité tous azimuts. Fabuleux !

Et en prime, l'oeil du photographe avec un joli reflet dans les vitres de l'opéra Bastille. Tu nous combles.

PS - bien sûr j'ai bien pensé à toi à Salin de Giraud ce week-end. Génial, la digue à la mer en 2CV ! Aujourd'hui on ne la fait qu'à vélo. Ce sera pour une prochaine fois. Cette fois-ci on n'avait pas pris nos vélos...

Adam said...

Good work brave blogger! Next mission, get inside the column and walk up to the top!

Synne said...

It's so odd to know what was standing and what happened on that spot! It makes me feel small whenever I'm in the area!

Alison said...

I add my thanks to the others for risking your life! Also for a concise, illustrated history of the Bastille area.

I think you should know I'm planning on using your blog as a reference during my trip to Paris in two weeks. Whenever I wonder about the history I'll check your archives. Your blog is turning into a rich and colorful archive of Paris history, architecture, etc. etc.!

Maria O. Russell said...

Bravo, Peter!!!!!!!

Parisbreakfasts said...

Do you think the place du Bastille is under appreciated in Paris as an inconturnable?
Until I stayed on rue du Faub. Saint-Antoine I never gave it a thought. But it was ever present when I stayed nearby. It is treacherous to cross that area indeed. One feels diminished with all the cars streaming by and the scale of the monument...

Starman said...

I love the way people change the historical facts surrounding the storming of the Bastille. Delacroix's painting goes a long way toward perpetuating that myth.

claude said...

Génial, Peter !
C'est assez incroyable d'aileurs le nombres de chansons écrites sur Paris.
Merci de faire de la pub pour mon
blog !

Bergson said...

j'ai du vivre en même temps qu'olivier dans le quartier
merci d'avoir risqué ta vie

Ash said...

Excellent post, Peter

Catherine said...

Great post - the final July column looks very much like our Angel of Independence here in Mexico City - what is the significance of the elephant which was Napoleon´s choice - do you know?? Greetings from final weeks in Mexico...

Peter (the other) said...

A case of reading the history immediately preceding the listening to Berlioz' opus made it much more enjoyable... and thanks to Claude for the other musical rendition... I always am amazed at early recordings and films, the voices of the past like ghosts (an effect that modern hi-fidelity kind of dispelled).

JoeinVegas said...

Thank you. It is interesting to see such places with history, when I live in Las Vegas where a 15 year old casino is considered 'historic' - just before it is blown up to build a new one.

Unknown said...

What a very powerful shot on top, it's my favourite. Wonderful post on the Bastille, Peter, great work... again! :-)

Louise said...

I took that exact photo of the reflection of the Colonne on my last trip to Paris! I wasn't brave enough to get right to the base of the Colonne for more photos though! Well done. Great and interesting shots. I didn't know that it was inscribed with names for instance.

Trotter said...

What a fabulous post!! Berlioz, Bruant, À la Bastille... and «Les Indignés"... Hopefully it won't end badly...

Shammickite said...

Another of your brilliant posts delving into the fascinating history of Paris. Thank you for all that information, and pictures.... and now, I wish you a Happy Father's Day, Peter. It is Father's Day here in N America, not sure if the French people celebrate fatherhood on the same day, but have a wonderful day anyway!

Simony said...

Risk worth taking!

arabesque said...

that's a grand monument, a bit risky you took but well worth it. ^0^
the inscriptions are beautiful also.

happy father's day to you Peter.

Jeanie said...

I always learn so much when I visit you and I'm always so grateful. Stay safe!

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