Snail's Postcard Post

Bastille Day

Did ya miss me? Yes, it’s been a few days–my computing machine needed tinkering. To make it up to you, here’s a nice long Postcard Post.

On July 14, 1789, the people of Paris signaled the end of the French monarchy. Not only does this date mark a huge celebration in France, but, like its revolutionary contemporary in the United States, July 4, 1776, the date sent a message to the world that countries could exist without royal rule, and continues to inspire us to pursue equality for all. 

In May 1789, the house of the French parliament representing 97% of the population (those who were not nobles or clergy), the Third Estate, declared itself a separate government. Yes, it was quitting the band and going solo, swearing its fame would drown out the old group. Of course, the First (clergy) and Second (nobles) Estates and King Louis XVI tried to crush the Third Estate’s new National Assembly, prompting many revolts, particularly in France’s intellectual and impoverished center of Paris.

Supposedly to enforce order in the capital, the city leaders formed a military police force, the Permanent Committee. But one wonders where the Permanent Committee’s loyalty lay when, on July 14, the officers organized the Paris populace to capture the Invalides and the Bastille, two royal armories, so the Permanent Committee could steal the arms therein.

The Bastille had previously been, not only an armory, but a state prison. Though it only held seven prisoners by the summer of 1789 (five forgers and two lunatics), the storming of Paris’ symbolic prison was a self-freeing act representing triumph over despotism. (In this spirit, modern French presidents have spent Bastille Day pardoning people for minor violations.) In response to the storming of the Bastille and the Invalides, Louis XVI resigned his kingship, and you know the rest.

The Pont Neuf with the Court of Cassation and the Conciergerie. 

These two buildings are part of the Palais de Justice, Paris’ governmental complex since Medieval times. Still used by France’s high court, the Court of Cassation was home to the Parlement of Paris (the government before the French Revolution’s National Assembly). From 1793-95, in the Reign of Terror, the Revolutionary Tribunal set up shop in the neighboring Conciergerie, a prison then, as it had been since the Middle Ages. Whether prisoners were to be freed or beheaded (there were no in-between sentences), with the Tribunal under the same roof as the prisoners, verdicts could be carried out rapidly. The Tribunal sent nearly 2,600 prisoners directly from the Conciergerie to the guillotine, including Marie Antoinette, and, ironically, Robespierre, who’d sentenced Danton, who’d sentenced the Girondins.

The famous Pont Neuf, despite its name (New Bridge), is Paris’ oldest existing bridge across the Seine, completed in 1607. 

Jacques-Louis David, Greve de Turenne,1816.

Born in 1748, Jacques-Louis David was involved in the French Revolution at the extremist, retroactive end. A friend of Robespierre, he was essentially a dictator of art during the French Republic. Imprisoned after Robespierre’s beheading, he found another political idol in Napoleon I, leading to the development of his masterful Empire Style.

With the defeat of Napoleon in 1815, David exiled himself to Brussels where, like many of Napoleon’s loyalists, he lived for the rest of his life (till 1825). This postcard features his portrait of fellow ex-pat, Turenne, one of Napoleon’s officers.

Sent to my grandparents from their friends on October 24, 1977










From my teacher (see his other postcards on the ‘Summer Reading’ and ‘The Beach’ posts). 

October 12, 2012, (rough translation), “For breakfast I ate pain au chocolat,”
(a chocolate filled croissant-like roll) “raisin bread toast, a croissant and two baguettes with jam and butter. For lunch I ate  a good macaroon at a cafe called Carette that I went to with my  girlfriend Fiona.”

From a friend, this postcard features the Basilica of the Sacred Heart. Completed in 1914, the church was not able to be consecrated until WWI was over. 

Postcards of Notre Dame, including its animated gargoyles and the Rose Window.

 Good Morning, Good Night” October 1, 1903 

Addressed to a man in Marseille, with a 10 cent stamp.

The Needle” Dramatization of a classic French story about a young prince and his tutor. I think one of the tutor’s lessons involves the metaphor of a needle. I have not been able to find a telling of this story, however, so if you know it, please share!

Lens (a French city) May 21, 1904
(rough translation)“Happy Pentecost. Affectionate respects to you two.–C.L.”

Rough translation:
You’ve lost something?
Yes, my money for the war orphans.

 Undated, this Paris-printed postcard seems to have been sent from one young woman to another. “and good wishes to your parents.” 

If anyone understands the context of this postcard, I’d love to know. Clearly a time in the early twentieth century when there were lots of orphans of war. World War I? Or is it earlier? Were children encouraged to donate money to help orphan children? Why would such a somber matter be on a postcard? As encouragement to donate? Why not do a propaganda-style design then? And why did the cartoonist have the boy lose his donation money? Maybe it’s a joke most of us just wouldn’t get anymore. 

Outside the Louvre, 1990.

“Portrait d’egoutier”Portrait of a sewer worker, from the Paris Sewers Museum. 

La Parapluie” The Umbrella

Homme a velo” Man on a bike


This entry was published on July 14, 2012 at 10:52 pm. It’s filed under Art, Europe, Historical, Site Specific and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.

2 thoughts on “Bastille Day

  1. Pingback: With Our Own Hands: Architecture « Snail's Postcard Post

  2. Pingback: Statuary « Snail's Postcard Post

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