Posted 8 years ago
The word ‘Bastille’ on Tuesday, July 14, 1789 meant an infamous prison to the east of Paris where a tyrant had buried alive those who dared to speak out against him. Deconstruction began almost immediately after the revolutionary takeover and parts of it were sold off as revolutionary souvenirs. The pejorative word ‘Bastille’ became plural ‘Bastilles’ and the task was to smash all tyranny in France. The concept of the Bastille acquired new meanings over time: prison, tyranny, freedom, liberty, victory, revolution, France etc..
The ’sans-culottes’ who had taken over the Bastille were seen as revolutionary heroes, model citizens creating a new order.
But when Napoleon Bonaparte became Emperor, he saw the concept of the Bastille as being dangerous because it celebrated a popular uprising against authority. For that reason the 14 of July was not celebrated in France during the last ten years of the ‘Empire’. Bonaparte even denied pensions to the Bastille veterans - the ‘sans-culottes’. When it was suggested that the area where the Bastille had stood should be the site for a monument to Liberty, Napoleon decided to do something entirely different. On February 9 1810 the Emperor declared that a fountain should be built there topped with an implausible gigantic bronze elephant made from captured Spanish cannons. The architects were to be Percier et Fontaine.
Work started on the new elephant fountain but only a huge plaster full scale replica ever got to be placed there in 1813. It was 24 m (78 ft) in height and was immortalised by Victor Hugo in his novel Les Misérables (1862) in which it is used as a shelter by the street urchin ‘Gavroche’. It remained there until 1842 when it fell into total disrepair.
In its place was erected a steel and bronze column standing 52 meters high and weighing 170 tons which is called the ‘Colonne de Juillet’. It has nothing to do with the taking of the Bastille in 1789.
The July Column was erected by order of Louis-Philippe in 1841, fifty-two years after the storming of the Bastille as a memorial to the victims of the three day July Revolution (July 27, 28, 29,1830) aka the ‘Trois Glorieuses’. It was designed by the architects Alvoine and Viollet-le-Duc. It imitates the Trajan Tower in Rome.
Funeral vaults were built into the foundations and the 504 people who died in the July Revolution were interred there and their names are inscribed on the column. The column rests on a base of white marble ornamented with bronze bas-reliefs, of which the lion by Antoine-Louis Barye is the most noted. At the top of the Colonne de Juillet is a gilded statue called the "Génie de la Liberté ". It is the work of Durmont. The winged Génie has a star on its forehead and is carrying a torch of Civilisation in one hand and in the other the broken shackles of Despotism.
This is a postcard published by N.D. Phot No. 16: Neurdein et Cie (1860’s-1919) Paris, France