Dates are on mind as this week as I have celebrated a big birthday. I was hunting about to see what of note in history occurred at around the same time as my birth. Instead, the internet led me to the Republican Calendar. (I am not that old!)
I have lived in France for over thirty years and I am ashamed to admit that I have only just discovered the Republican Calendar. Am I alone in this ignorance?
On the 6th October 1793, or 15 Vendémiaire, An II, the Convention decided to create a new calendar for a new Republic, fixing the start date as the day when the Republic was proclaimed, namely the autumn equinox, 22nd September 1792.
The seven-day week was replaced by a ten-day one called a ‘decade’. The day names were changed to primidi (day one), duodi, tridi, quartidi, quintidi, sextidi, septidi, octidi, nonidi and décadi.
Months were made up of three decades (or thirty days). They year ended after Fructidor with 5 supplementary days and a 6th, Day of the Revolution, for leap years.
The French poet, Philippe François Nazaire Fabre, created names for the months. His inspiration came from the seasons and events in Nature. The Republican Calendar began its year in the autumn with the month of Vendémiaire. Vendage in French or vindemia in Latin is the grape harvest.
The names given for each month are really beautiful.
Names were also given to each day of the year and they were chosen from trees and flowers, plants, animals and farm tools.
Alas, Napoleon I who, of course, was not in favour of a Republic abolished this newly-devised calendar in 1806 and returned us to the Gregorian one.