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French republican calendar

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The French republican calendar was instituted by the National Convention after the French Revolution as a reform of the Gregorian calendar that would help to divorce the new republic from its Catholic predecessor.

The creation of the calendar

In 1793, the National Convention's Committee of Public Instruction created a subcommittee, chaired by the mathematician Charles Gilbert Romme, to create a new calendar. Other members were Louis Lagrange and Gaspard Monge, also mathematicians; the scientists Antoine François Fourcroy, Guyton de Morveau, Joseph Jérôme le François de Lelande, and Joseph Lakanal; and the poets Marie-Joseph de Chénier and Philip François Nazaire Fabre d'Églantine.

Romme presented the results, first to the Committee of Public Instruction and then to the full Convention, in September of 1793, and the Convention issued a decree on October 5th that made the calendar official. The names of days and months were finalized by a decree on November 24th.

Its structure

Start of the year

Year I was deemed to have started on September 22, 1792 Gregorian, the date of the founding of the Republic, and also the fall equinox of that year. Each following year was to start at midnight of the day of the fall equinox, as observed at the Paris Observatory.

Months and days

A year was divided into 12 months of 30 days each, with five epagomenal days, six in leap years. Each month consisted of three décades, or 10-day weeks, with days named Primdi, Duodi, Tridi, Quartidi, Quintidi, Sextidi, Septidi, Octidi, Nonidi, and Decadi ("First Day", "Second Day", etc.). Every Decadi was to be a rest day. Fabre d'Églantine named the days and months as follows[1]. Note that every Quintidi was named for an animal, and every Decadi for a farming tool.

Fall months
Name(English name)Name(English name)Name(English name)
MonthsVendemaireVintageBrumaireFoggyFrimaireFrosty
Primdi1RaisinGrapePommeAppleRaiponceRampion
Duodi2SafranCrocusCéleriCeleryTurnepsField-turnips
Tridi3ChâtaignesChestnut treePoirePearChicoréeChicory
Quartidi4ColchiquesAutumn crocusBettraveBeetNèfleMedlar
Quintidi5ChevalHorseOieGooseCochonPig
Sextidi6BalsamineBalsamHéliotropeHeliotropeMâcheLamb's lettuce
Septidi7CarottesCarrotsFigueFigChou-fleurCauliflower
Octidi8AmaranteAmaranthScorsonèreBlack salsifyMielHoney
Nonidi9PanaisParsnipAlisierSorbGenièvreJuniper
Decadi10CuveTankCharruePlowPiocheMattock
Primdi11Pome-de-TerrePotatoSalsifisSalsifyCireWax
Duodi12ImmortelleImmortelleMacreWater chestnutRaifortHorseradish
Tridi13PotironWinter squashTopinambourJerusalem artichokeCèdreCedar
Quartidi14RésédaMignonetteEndiveEndiveSapinFir
Quintidi15AneDonkeyDindonTurkeyChevreuilDeer
Sextidi16Belle-de-nuitPretty-by-nightChervisCarawayAjoncGorse
Septidi17CitrouillePumpkinCressonWatercressCyprèsCypress
Octidi18SarrasinBuckwheatDentelaireLeadwortLierreIvy
Nonidi19TournesolSunflowerGrenadePomegranateSabineSavin
Decadi20PressoirPressing shedHerseHarrowHoyauHoe
Primdi21ChanvreHempBacchanteBacchanteErable-sucreMaple syrup
Duodi22PêchePeachAzeroleAzaroleBruyèreHeather
Tridi23NavetTurnipGaranceMadderRoseauReed
Quartidi24AmaryllisAmaryllisOrangeOrangeOseilleSorrel
Quintidi25BoeufSteerFaisanPheasantGrillonCricket
Sextidi26AubergineEggplantPistachePistachioPingonPine nut
Septidi27PimentRed pepperMacjoncLiégeCork
Octidi28TomateTomatoCoingQuinceTruffeTruffle
Nonidi29OrgeBarleyCormierService treeOliveOlive
Decadi30TonneauBarrelRouleauRolling pinPelleShovel
Winter months
Name(English name)Name(English name)Name(English name)
MonthsNivôseSnowyPluviôseRainyVentôseWindy
Primdi1TourbePeatLauréoleDaphneTussilageColtsfoot
Duodi2HouileCoalMousseMossCornouillerDogwood
Tridi3BitumeBitumenFragonButcher's broomViolierWallflower
Quartidi4SoufreSulfurPerce-neigeSnowdropTroënePrivet
Quintidi5ChienDogTaureauBullBoucBillygoat
Sextidi6LaveLavaLaurier-thymViburnumAsaretAzarum
Septidi7Terre végétaleTopsoilAmadouvierTinder agaricAlaterneBuckthorn
Octidi8FumierManureMèzéréonMezereonVioletteViolet
Nonidi9SalpêtreSaltpeterPeuplierPoplarMarceauGoat willow
Decadi10FléaFlailCoignéeAxeBecheGarden fork
Primdi11GranitGraniteElleboreHelleboreNarcisseNarcissus
Duodi12ArgileClayBrocoliBroccoliOrmeElm
Tridi13ArdoiseSlateLaurierLaurelFumeterreFumus terrae
Quartidi14GrèsSandstoneAvelinierFilbert treeVélardHedge-mustard
Quintidi15LapinRabbitVacheCowChèvreNanny goat
Sextidi16SilexFlintBuisBox treeEpinardsSpinach
Septidi17MarneMarlLichenLichenDoronicLeopard's bane
Octidi18Pierre à chauxLimestoneIfYewMouronPimpernel
Nonidi19MarbreMarblePulmonaireLungwortCerfeuilChervil
Decadi20VanWinnowing basketSerpettePruning knifeCordeauCord
Primdi21Pierre à plâtreGypsumThlaspiPennycressMandragoreMandrake
Duodi22SelSaltThimeléPersilParsley
Tridi23FerIronChiendentCouch grassCochléariaCochlearia
Quartidi24CuivreCopperTraînasseKnotgrassPâqueretteDaisy
Quintidi25ChatCatLièvreHareThonTuna
Sextidi26EtainTinGuèdeWoadPissenlitDandelion
Septidi27PlombLeadNoisetierHazelSilvieForest
Octidi28ZincZincCyclamenCyclamenCapillaireMaidenhair fern
Nonidi29MercureMercuryChéledoineCelandineFrèneAsh
Decadi30CribleSifting screenTraineauSleighPlantoirDibble
Spring months
Name(English name)Name(English name)Name(English name)
MonthsGerminalSeedtimeFloréalFloweryPrairialMeadowy
Primdi1PrimevèrePrimroseRoseRoseLuzerneAlfalfa
Duodi2PlatanePlane treeChêneOakHémérocaleDay-lily
Tridi3AspergesAsparagusFougèreFernTrèfleClover
Quartidi4TulipesTulipsAubépineHawthornAngéliqueAngelica
Quintidi5PouleHenRossignolNightingaleCanardDuck
Sextidi6BletteSwiss chardAncolieColumbineMélisseMelissa
Septidi7BouleauBirchMuguetLily of the valleyFromentalWheat
Octidi8JonquilleDaffodilChampignonMushroomMartagonMartagon
Nonidi9AuneAlderHyacintheHyacinthSerpoletWild thyme
Decadi10CouvoirIncubatorRateauRakeFauxScythe
Primdi11PervenchePeriwinkleRhubarbeRhubarbFraiseStrawberry
Duodi12CharmeHornbeamSainfoinFodderBétoineBetony
Tridi13MorilleMorelBâton-d'orGoldenrodPoixPitch
Quartidi14HêtreBeechChamérisierDwarf palmAcaciaLocust tree
Quintidi15AbeilleHoneybeeVer-à-soieSilkwormCailleQuail
Sextidi16LaitueLettuceConsoudeComfreyOeilletCarnation
Septidi17MélèzeLarchPimprenelleBurnetSureauElder tree
Octidi18CiguëHemlockCorbeille-d'orYellow alyssumPavotPoppy
Nonidi19RadisRadishArrocheMountain spinachTilleulLime tree
Decadi20RucheBeehiveSarcloirHoeFourchePitchfork
Primdi21GainierJudas treeStaticeStaticeBarbeauCornflower
Duodi22RomaineRomaine lettuceFritillaireFritillaryCamomilleChamomile
Tridi23MaronnierChestnut treeBourracheBorageChèvrefeuilleHoneysuckle
Quartidi24RoquetteRocket plantValérianeValerianCaille-laitRennet
Quintidi25PigeonPigeonCarpeCarpTancheTench
Sextidi26AnémoneAnemoneFusainCharcoalJasminJasmine
Septidi27LilasLilacCivetteChivesVerveineVerbena
Octidi28PenséePansyBugloseBuglossThymThyme
Nonidi29MyrtilleBlueberrySénevéWild mustardPivoinePeony
Decadi30GreffoirGrafting knifeLouletteShepherd's crookChariotWagon
Summer months
Name(English name)Name(English name)Name(English name)
MonthsMessidorHarvestThermidorHotFructidorFruit
Primdi1SigleRyeEpeautreSpeltPrunePlum
Duodi2AvoineOatsBouillon blancMulleinMilletMillet
Tridi3OignonOnionMelonMelonLycoperdePuff-ball
Quartidi4VéroniqueSpeedwellIvraieRye grassEscourgeonWinter barley
Quintidi5MuletMuleBélierRamSaumonSalmon
Sextidi6RomarinRosemaryPrêleHorsetailTubéreuseTuber
Septidi7ConcombreCucumberArmoiseArtemisiaSucrionSugar melon
Octidi8EchalottesShallotsCarthameSafflowerApocynDog bane
Nonidi9AbsyntheAbsintheMûresMulberriesRéglisseLicorice
Decadi10FaucilleSickleArrosoirWatering canEchelleLadder
Primdi11CoriandreCorianderPanisPanic grassPastrèqueWatermelon
Duodi12ArtichautArtichokeSalicotFenouilFennel
Tridi13GirofléeWallflowerApricotApricotEpine-vinetteBarberry
Quartidi14LavandeLavenderBasilicBasilNoixWalnut
Quintidi15ChamoisFawnBrebisEweTruiteTrout
Sextidi16TabacTobaccoGuimauveMarshmallowCitronLemon
Septidi17GroseilleRed currantLinFlaxCardièreTeasel
Octidi18GesseVetchAmandeAlmondNerprunBuckthorn
Nonidi19CeriseCherryGentianeGentianTagetteIndian rose
Decadi20ParcPen (enclosure)EcluseLockHotteSack
Primdi21MentheMintCarlineThistleEglantierDog rose
Duodi22CuminCuminCaprierCaper shrubNoisetteHazelnut
Tridi23HaricotsBeansLentilleLentilHoublonHops
Quartidi24OrcanèteDyer's buglossAunéeElecampaneSorghoSorghum
Quintidi25PintadeGuinea fowlLoutreOtterÉcrivisseCrayfish
Sextidi26SaugeSageMyrteMyrtleBigaradeBitter orange
Septidi27AilGarlicColzaCanola oilVerge d'orGoldenrod
Octidi28VesceVetchLupinLupinMaïsMaize
Nonidi29BléWheatCotonCottonMarronHorse chestnut
Decadi30ChalémieMoulinMillPanierBasket

The epagomenal days were originally called sanculotides ("days of the sans-culottes"; modern spelling, sans-culottides). They were named Fête de la Vertu ("Festival of Virtue"), Fête du Génie ("Festival of Genius"), Fête du Travail ("Festival of Work"), Fête de l'Opinion ("Festival of Opinion"), Fête des Récompenses ("Festival of Rewards"), and Fête de la Révolution ("Festival of the Revolution"). These were to be public holidays, and Fête de la Révolution, the leap day, was to be a day of games between competitors from all over France.

Leap years

Leap years, called "sextile years" because of the six epagomenal days, were to occur every four years, with the first being year III. A group of four years was to be known as a Franciade. However, as was quickly pointed out by the astronomer Jean Baptiste Joseph Delambre, there was no way to reconcile this with the desire to begin every new year on the equinox. In response, Romme formed a new subcommittee to "perfect" the calendar. It ultimately proposed to follow the Gregorian pattern of leap years, with the exception of suppressing one leap day every 4000 years. Before the recommendation could be implemented, however, Romme was arrested and sentenced to death.

Its demise

The republican calendar was deeply unpopular both inside and outside France and its conquered territories for the difficulties it caused in communicating and doing business with the rest of Europe. The working people of France were also unhappy about having only one day of rest in every ten.

The décade was the first part of the calendar to go, in 1795. Also in that year, the sanculotides were renamed simply jours supplémentaires ("extra days").

Napoleon exempted Rome from the new calendar in 1799, to placate the Pope. In 1805, now emperor, he restored France to Catholicism and restored the old calendar. France officially rejoined the Gregorian world on January 1st, 1806.

References

  1. French day names from: Richards, E G (1998) Mapping Time: The Calendar and its History. New York: Oxford University Press. pp 398-399.