Sometimes, new political powers that come into office reject everything done by the predecessors. Sometimes it is a truly curious way of showing disregard.
Through history revolutionaries turned into vandals, destroying everything associated with the past.
This insistence took also other forms, such as making life difficult for everyone just to throw away even the most reasonable solutions intoduced by the ovethrown power. In Europe, this is still happening today. The winning party in my country wants to cancel the construction of a new major airport. The two existing airports are overcrowded and not connected. Recently, I spent over 80 minutes in queues and had to run to catch my flight, although I was at the airport almost two hours ahead. Instead of building a new airport, they want to make additions to the existing terminal and connect them with tunnels under the taxiway. I can already picture it. Several times in transit, I had to sprint through the tunnel in Frankfurt. Once I even made it in 20 minutes gate to gate. Still, a nightmare of every passenger.
Let the people be tormented; whatever the predecessors did must be tossed into the bin. In this context, having in mind my later post, let me talk quite a folly committed by the French revolutionaries in an attempt to distance themselves from the Catholic Church. Not that I don’t appreciate what the French Revolution brought to Europe. It was a painful process, but it granted us Europeans civil rights that made our lives easier. However, in introducing the Republican Calendar, the French revolutionaries simply went overboard without understanding.
Pope Gregory XIII, who commissioned the Gregorian Calendar, and the National Convention that implemented the Republican Calendar in France.
The Republican Calendar, also known as the French Republican Calendar, reflects the revolutionary spirit of the French Revolution. Adopted during a time when France was undergoing a major ideological and societal transformation, this calendar aimed to break free from the traditional Gregorian calendar, which was associated with monarchy and religious traditions (>>>).
Introduced in 1793 by the National Convention, it played a significant role in the broader initiative for decimalization in France. It was not merely a means of timekeeping, but a symbol of the revolution’s desire to rid itself of religious and royalist influences. In addition to the calendar, this comprehensive effort included the introduction of decimal time, currency, and metrication, which aimed to standardize and simplify (!) various aspects of daily life.
The Republican Calendar consisted of twelve months, each with unique names inspired by nature, seasons, and agricultural activities. For the autumn season, the calendar included the months of Vendémiaire (Vintage), Brumaire (Mist), and Frimaire (Frost). These months, starting on September 22nd, 23rd, or 24th, marked the transition from summer to winter. As winter arrived, the Republican Calendar continued with the months of Nivôse (Snowy), Pluviôse (Rainy), and Ventôse (Windy). These months, starting on December 21st, 22nd, or 23rd, captured the essence of the colder months and the changing weather patterns. With the arrival of spring, the Republican Calendar embraced the months of Germinal (Germination), Floréal (Flower), and Prairial (Meadow). These months, starting on March 21st or 22nd, April 20th or 21st, and May 20th or 21st respectively, were associated with the renewal of life, blooming flowers, and the lushness of meadows. Finally, the calendar entered the summer season with the months of Messidor (Harvest), Thermidor (Summer Heat, sometimes referred to as Fervidor or Burning Hot), and Fructidor (Fruit). These months, starting on June 19th or 20th, July 19th or 20th (Thermidor/Fervidor) and August 18th or 19th, marked the peak of agricultural activities, when the harvest was gathered and fruits ripened.
One of the most notable aspects of the Republican Calendar was the shift from a 7-day week to a 10-day week. Each month consisted of three ten-day weeks, known as “decades,” totaling 30 days. Each day was divided into ten hours, each hour into 100 decimal minutes, and each decimal minute into 100 decimal seconds. Thus an hour was 144 conventional minutes.
There was also a problem with the leap year rule for the Republican Calendar, for which the Gregorian principles were proposed. The proposal faced challenges and was never adopted. Its advocate Gilbert Romme was sentenced to the guillotine and committed suicide.
While this change aimed to reflect the decimal system, it faced practical difficulties. After the fall of Maximilien Robespierre in 1794 efforts were made to revert to more traditional practices, including the use of the Gregorian calendar. Finally, in 1806, under the rule of Napoleon Bonaparte, the Gregorian calendar was officially reinstated.
Today, the Republican Calendar serves as a historical curiosity and a testament to the radical changes brought about by the French Revolution. Nonetheless, it remains an enduring symbol of France’s revolutionary past and the determination of the French people to reshape their society in a profound way.