What Is A Bastille? Getty On Bastille Day, the world parties in the name of France. But do you know what makes Bastille Day so important not just for France but the history of all democracies? What is a bastille? A bastille is French for “fortress,” “castle,” or “bastion.” What is Bastille Day? But, Bastille Day is specifically about the Bastille Saint-Antoine, which is a fortress-prison in Paris that was stormed on July 14, 1789. It was a symbol of the power of the French monarchy. Essentially, France was on the brink of revolution. A quasi-legislature called the Estates-General met to try to deal with the crisis. They failed, primarily due to the resistance of the nobility who held the most sway. The Third Estate, which represented the middle class, or bourgeoisie, rebelled and formed the National Assembly, which also started its own militia, the National Guard. This was actually the first popular revolt of its kind. Within days, the monarchy was driven out, and the nation was in the throes of the French Revolution. Paris was rioting, and a crowd gathered around the Bastille, demanding the surrender of the guards and a release of all prisoners. WATCH: Why Are Only Some Wars Called "Revolutions"? Previous Next A bloody standoff ended with the capitulation of the royal forces. The Revolution wasn’t exactly smooth sailing, but the storming of the Bastille is a dramatic symbol for the overthrow of tyranny in the name of the people. And now, the occasion is typically honored with military parades and a lot of libations. Fun fact: in France, custom has it that the president issues pardons to mostly minor criminals on Bastille Day.