Bastille Day is the national day of unity in France that commemorates an important event in the French Revolution. On July 14, 1789, French citizens supported by soldiers who broke from the French government assaulted the Bastille prison. The jail held only seven prisoners at the time, none considered of significant political importance. The Bastille was targeted because it was believed to hold a stockpile of ammunition and gunpowder. At first, the garrison resisted and some accounts indicate that about 200 attackers and one guard were killed in initial fighting. Seeing that the Bastille was surrounded with little chance of relief, its commander eventually opened the gates to surrender the fortress. Fighting broke out again later due to a misunderstanding and several were killed on each side, including the commander. Eventually the prison was captured completely.

The following month, a revolutionary council proposed the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen (Déclaration des Droits de l’Homme et du Citoyen), a document similar to the United State’s Declaration Of Independence. The initial draft was created in consultation with American Thomas Jefferson, a friend of one of the authors. This document expressed the rights of the citizen, ended feudalism, and created the foundation for a French constitutional republic.

Today, Bastille Day is celebrated throughout France. The oldest and largest annual military parade in Europe takes place in Paris, with French and allied troops marching down the Champs-Élysées. Throughout the world, communities hold Bastille Day celebrations with French food, wine, cultural activities, and sporting events.

Bastille Day is celebrated annually on July 14th.