The Republican Calendar

One of the difficulties when studying French history and especially for the genealogists wishing to discover their French roots, is the change of calendar that occurred from the 22nd September 1792 until the 1st January 1806.

Straight after of the storming of the Bastille in July 1789 during the French Revolution, some people started to mention the year 1789 as the First year of Freedom ( l’an 1 ).

The 22nd September 1792, the National Convention ( which is about to proclaim the First Republic three days later ) ordered all public document to be dated as the year I of the Republic. The Republicans, willing to abort all the symbols of Monarchy decided to change the names of months and days as well as the complete organisation of the annual calendar. It is the 5th October 1793 that the decree will be officially become effective as the 14th Vandémiaire II.

The Republican Calendar will last until 22nd Fructidor of the year XIII ( meaning the 9th September 1805 ) and Napoléon will reinstall the Gregorian Calendar the 1st January 1806.

As a genealogist for example, you will have to understand the Republican Calendar when reading the certificates of birth, marriage, death or the wills, justice statement,…etc. Many websites offers a quick translation to the Gregorian Calendar or, if you are lucky enough, the officials may have written the dates back into the Gregorian Calendar as an annotation.

The Composition and Structure of the Republican Calendar.

A Republican Year is made of twelve months and each of them have thirty days. Depending on the year, the five or six missing days were added at the end of year so as to keep the number of 365 days per year. The Republican Calendar also made leap years ( III, VII and XI ) and for these years a day was added ( the day of the revolution ) and was a celebrated as a national day.

The months were made to coincide with the weather, important moment of live and with the agricultural organisation of the time. The names are the work of Fabre d’Eglantine, a poet, and a gardener of the National Museum of Natural History, André Thouin.

The Months :

  • Vandémiaire, from the 22nd September to the 21st October
  • Brumaire, from the 22nd October to the 20th November
  • Frimaire, from the 21st November to the 20th December
  • Nivôse, from the 21st December to the 19th January
  • Pluviôse, from the 20th January to the 18th February
  • Ventôse, from the the 19th February to the 20th March
  • Germinal, from the 21st March to the 19th April
  • Floréal, from the 20th April to the 19th May
  • Prairial, from the 20th May to the 18th June
  • Messidor, from the 19th June to the 18th July
  • Thermidor, from the 19th July to the 17th August
  • Fructidor, from the 18th August to the 16th September

The Days :

The five missing days we mentioned earlier were celebrated during the month of September ( Vandémiaire, the end of the year ) and during the leap years, the sixth missing day was added.

  • 17th September was the day of virtue ( jour de la vertu )
  • 18th September was the day of talent ( jour du génie )
  • 19th September was the day of labour ( jour du travail )
  • 20th September was the day of convictions ( jour de l’opinion )
  • 21st September was the day of awards ( jour de la récompense )

Finally, during the leap years, the 22nd September was the day of the Revolution ( jour de la Révolution ).

With the will to forsake symbols of monarchy and Christianity, the days of the Saints were also taken away and replaced. The days were named after fruits and vegetable, animals or tools
( e.g, apple, pig, …Etc ). But you will rarely see them written in the archives should you be looking for a certificate, the days will be written by their number like “12 Messidor of the year III”.

By Alister

Studying at the University of Besançon, Burgundy Franche-Comté, France

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