During the height of the French Revolution, there was a complete revamping/retooling of French culture and religion: A new calendar based on the metric system and marking the significant events and principles of the Revolution as holidays; dismantling the corrupt institutions of Roman Catholicism (personified by such figures as Lomenie de Brienne, Archbishop of Toulouse, during latter part of the reign of Louis XV) and replacing them with state sponsored 'Constitutional' clergy, and eventually even a new religion of the Deist persuasion, to replace Catholicism, etc.

But these innovations and reforms did not persist, although IMO they seem quite ingenious and in tune with modern beliefs and sensibilities. Thomas Carlyle in his "History" derides these innovations, but I myself find them quite palatable in many ways.

So - what happened to those innovations and reforms? In particular: the new French Deism and the metric calendar.

Why/how did they fall by the wayside? Did the Thermidorian Reaction just shove them aside? (Judging from what Carlyle writes, that seems the most likely.) Did Napoleon do away with it all? Did the force of historical inertia simply cause the French to revert to their old ways?

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    i like a part of this question a lot - i'd upvote it if it dealt specifically with the calendar, that'd be an interesting question. why did the calendar fail? not sure about the non-calendar stuff that seems too broad. like you, i'd like to know who's downvoting without leaving any kind of feedback Jul 13, 2013 at 23:34
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    @hawbsi - Perhaps because I asked for a reference it was downvoted.... I will remove it. The religious aspect interests me - Deism conforms to what many modern people believe today: a Supreme Being, but 'theologically neutral'. It was also the belief of the many of the prominent Founders of the USA, who were not orthodox Christians by any means, ('The USA is a Christian Nation' is a myth) and I suspect that the French were influenced by the Americans on that, as they were inspired by the American revolutionaries in many other ways as well.
    – user2590
    Jul 13, 2013 at 23:41
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    @hawbsl - As I commented, "The USA is a Christian Nation" is a myth spread by the American Evangelists. Although you are assumedly a Muslim and I am a Jew, I think we can agree on that point :-) Neither Muslims nor Jews are well served by such a point of view...
    – user2590
    Jul 13, 2013 at 23:50
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    The [Metric system}(en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Introduction_to_the_metric_system) itself is a still persisting result of French Revolution. SO not all innovations were unsuccessful.
    – knut
    Jul 14, 2013 at 18:32
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    I voted to close not because the question is bad (it is not!) but because it is too broad. I can see (and I have) several books on the subject as being good answers! What I suggest you do, is to split this into may other questions. Jul 17, 2013 at 7:12

2 Answers 2


Napoleon abolished the revolutionary calendar in 1805. It was never very popular. Catholics disliked having their saints' days dropped, and having a day of rest every 10 days instead of every seven probably made it a tough sell.

The Cult of the Supreme Being never caught on. Much of France's population remained Catholic during this time, and many of the reforms introduced by the revolutionary government were not broadly supported. Christian worship was gradually restored as the Revolution ran its course, and then in 1801 Napoleon signed a Concordat with the Pope, restoring some ties to the Catholic Church while also granting freedom of worship for Protestants and Jews.

  • -1 - No sources.
    – user2590
    Aug 16, 2014 at 21:48


Based on Carlyle's accounts, the French foray into an organized from of Deism was essentially stillborn. In Chapter 3.6.IV Carlyle writes the following:

But on the day they call Decadi, New-Sabbath, 20 Prairial, 8th June (1794) by old style....his day, if it please Heaven, we are to have, on improved Anti-Chaumette principles: a New Religion. Catholicism being burned out, and Reason-worship guillotined, was there not need of one? Incorruptible Robespierre,not unlike the Ancients, as Legislator of a free people will now also be Priest and Prophet. He has donned his sky-blue coat,made for the occasion; white silk waistcoat embroidered with silver, black silk breeches, white stockings, shoe-buckles of gold. He is President of the Convention; he has made the Convention decree, so they name it, decreter the ‘Existence of the Supreme Being,’

Robespierre also become a sort of High Priest and Prophet of his new founded religion. (He had apparently gone quite mad by this point...)

But there was opposition to Robespierre's initiatives among the soon-to-be Thermidorians, who viewed the idea as just more of his affectations and attempts at grabbing power.

Vanish, thou and it!—”Avec ton Etre Supreme,” said Billaud, tu commences m’embeter: With thy Etre Supreme thou beginnest to be a bore to me.” (Supra)

The whole thing never really caught on, and Robespierre was guillotined before a second "Feast of the Supreme Being" was ever implemented. All memory of it was wiped away in the period of the Thermidorian Reaction.


See the In the French Republican calendar: were Quintidis holidays? and the accepted answer there:

People didn't like the new calender, because it was less free time for them. This was remarked by officials and they added an additional half free day on quintidis.

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    Emphasis on the last quote. Difficult to sell a calendar that increases your workload by more than 10%
    – MCW
    Aug 16, 2014 at 13:56

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