By the time the Revolution broke out, Parisians had already hated the Bastille for some time. Wider than it was tall, this fortress represented a defiant challenge to working-class neighborhoods. However, it was used less and less over the years: on July 14, 1789, insurgents freed only 7 prisoners… In other words, not a whole lot compared to the hundreds of prisoners rotting in other Parisian prisons, like Châtelet or the Abbaye. However, famous men were imprisoned here for their writings like Voltaire (in 1717 and 1726) and the Marquis de Sade (from 1784 to July 4, 1789). This is also where they imprisoned booksellers, printers or peddlers who did not respect government censorship. It should also be mentioned that this prison was very unusual: the king could imprison subjects here with a mere royal missive and did not need to rely on a judge to intervene. The Bastille represented both royal arbitrary power and the people’s glaring inability to freely express their thoughts. Consequently, its storming carried great symbolism.
Place de la Bastille