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French Revolutionary Calendar

French Revolutionary Calendar

The French Republican Calendar or French Revolutionary Calendar was a calendar proposed during the French Revolution, and used by the French government for about 12 years from late 1793 to 1805, and for 18 days in 1871 in Paris.

Origins and overview

The new calendar was created by a commission under the direction of the politician Charles Gilbert Romme seconded by Claude Joseph Ferry and Charles-François Dupuis. They associated to their work the chemist Louis-Bernard Guyton de Morveau, the mathematician and astronomer Joseph-Louis Lagrange, the astronomer Joseph Jérôme Lefrançois de Lalande, the mathematician Gaspard Monge, the astronomer and naval geographer Alexandre Guy Pingré, and the poet, actor and playwright Fabre d'Églantine, who invented the names of the months, with the help of André Thouin, gardener at the Jardin des Plantes of the Muséum National d'Histoire Naturelle in Paris. As the rapporteur of the commission, Charles-Gilbert Romme presented the new calendar to the Jacobin-controlled National Convention on 23 September 1793, which adopted it on 24 October 1793 and also extended it proleptically to its epoch of 22 September 1792. It is because of his position as rapporteur of the commission that the creation of the republican calendar is attributed to Romme.

Years appear in writing as Roman numerals (usually), with epoch 22 September 1792, the beginning of the 'Republican Era' (the day the French First Republic was proclaimed, one day after the Convention abolished the monarchy). As a result, Roman Numeral I indicates the first year of the republic, that is, the year before the calendar actually came into use. The first day of each year was that of the autumnal equinox. There were twelve months, each divided into three ten-day weeks called décades. The tenth day, décadi, replaced Sunday as the day of rest and festivity. The five or six extra days needed to approximate the solar or tropical year were placed after the months at the end of each year. Each day was divided into ten hours, each hour into 100 decimal minutes and each decimal minute had 100 decimal seconds. Thus an hour was more than twice as long as a conventional hour; a minute was slightly longer than a conventional minute; and a second was slightly shorter than a conventional second. Clocks were manufactured to display this decimal time, but it did not catch on and mandatory use was officially suspended 7 April 1795, although some cities continued to use decimal time as late as 1801.

A period of four years ending on a leap day was to be called a "Franciade." The name "Olympique" was originally proposed[2] but changed to Franciade to commemorate the fact that it had taken the revolution four years to establish a republican government in France.

The leap year was called Sextile, an allusion to the "bissextile" leap years of the Julian and Gregorian calendars, because it contained a sixth complementary day.

The Concordat of 1801 re-established the Roman Catholic Church in France with effect from Easter Sunday, 18 April 1802, restoring the names of the days of the week with the ones they had in the Gregorian Calendar, while keeping the rest of the Republican Calendar, and fixing Sunday as the official day of rest and religious celebration.[4]
Napoléon finally abolished the calendar with effect from 1 January 1806 (the day after 10 Nivôse an XIV), a little over twelve years after its introduction. However, it was used again during the brief Paris Commune, 6 May-23, 1871 (16 Floréal–3 Prairial An LXXIX).

Many conversion tables and programs exist, largely created by genealogists. Some enthusiasts in France still use the calendar, more out of historical re-enactment than practicality.

Some legal texts that were adopted when the Republican Calendar was official are still in force in France and even Belgium (which was incorporated into the former) and have kept their original dates for citation purposes.


The name "French Revolutionary Calendar" refers to the fact that the calendar was created during the Revolution, but is somewhat of a misnomer. Indeed, there was initially a debate as to whether the calendar should celebrate the Revolution, i.e., 1789, or the Republic, i.e., 1792.[5] Immediately following 14 July 1789, papers and pamphlets started calling 1789 year I of Liberty and the following years II and III. It was in 1792, with the practical problem of dating financial transactions, that the legislative assembly was confronted with the problem of the calendar. Originally, the choice of epoch was either 1 January 1789 or 14 July 1789. After some hesitation the assembly decided on 2 January 1792 that all official documents would use the "era of Liberty" and that the year IV of Liberty started on 1 January 1792. This usage was modified on 22 September 1792 when the Republic was proclaimed and the Convention decided that all public documents would be dated Year I of the French Republic. The decree of 2 January 1793 stipulated that the year II of the Republic began on 1 January 1793. The establishment of the Republic was also used for the final version of the calendar, therefore, the calendar commemorates the Republic, not the Revolution. In France, it is only known as the calendrier républicain.

[From Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia as made available under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License.]

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