The dechristianization of France during the French Revolution is a conventional description of the results of a number of separate policies conducted by various governments of France between the start of the French Revolution in 1789 and the Concordat of 1801, forming the basis of the later and less radical laïcité policies. The aim of the campaign between 1790 and 1794 ranged from the appropriation by the government of the great landed estates and the large amounts of money held by the Gallican Church (the Roman Catholic Church in France) to the termination of Christian religious practice and of the religion itself.There has been much scholarly debate over whether the movement was popularly motivated.
The French Revolution initially began with attacks on Church corruption and the wealth of the higher clergy, an action with which even many Christians could identify, since the Gallican Church held a dominant role in pre-revolutionary France. During a two-year period known as the Reign of Terror, the episodes of anti-clericalism grew more violent than any in modern European history. The new revolutionary authorities suppressed the Church, abolished the Catholic monarchy, nationalized Church property, exiled 30,000 priests, and killed hundreds more.In October 1793, the Christian calendar was replaced with one reckoned from the date of the Revolution, and Festivals of Liberty, Reason, and the Supreme Being were scheduled. New forms of moral religion emerged, including the deistic Cult of the Supreme Being and the atheistic Cult of Reason, with the revolutionary government briefly mandating observance of the former in April 1794.
In 18th-century France, the vast majority of the population adhered to the Catholic Church as Catholicism had been since the revocation of the Edict of Nantes in 1685 the only religion officially allowed in the kingdom. Nonetheless, minorities of French Protestants (mostly Huguenots & German Lutherans in Alsace) and Jews still lived in France at the beginning of the Revolution. The Edict of Versailles,commonly known as the Edict of Tolerance, had been signed by Louis XVI on 7 November 1787 and had not given non-Catholics in France the right to openly practice their religions but only the rights to legal and civil status, which included the right to contract marriages without having to convert to the Catholic faith. At the same time, libertine thinkers popularized atheism and anti-clericalism.
The Ancien Régime institutionalised the authority of the clergy in its status as the First Estate of the realm. As the largest landowner in the country, the Catholic Church controlled properties which provided massive revenues from its tenants;the Church also had an enormous income from the collection of tithes. Since the Church kept the registry of births, deaths, and marriages and was the only institution that provided hospitals and education in some parts of the country, it influenced all citizens.
A milestone event of the Revolution was the abolition of the privileges of the First and Second Estate on the night of 4 August 1789. In particular, it abolished the tithes gathered by the Catholic clergy.
The Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen of 1789 proclaimed freedom of religion across France in these terms:
Article IV – Liberty consists of doing anything which does not harm others: thus, the exercise of the natural rights of each man has only those borders which assure other members of the society the enjoyment of these same rights. These borders can be determined only by the law.
Article X – No one may be disturbed for his opinions, even religious ones, provided that their manifestation does not trouble the public order established by the law.
On October 10, 1789, the National Constituent Assembly seized the properties and land held by the Catholic Church and decided to sell them as assignats.
On July 12, 1790, the assembly passed the Civil Constitution of the Clergy that subordinated the Catholic Church in France to the French government. It was never accepted by the Pope and other high-ranking clergy in Rome.
The programme of dechristianization waged against Catholicism, and eventually against all forms of Christianity, included: [ need quotation to verify ]
An especially notable event that took place in the course of France’s dechristianization was the Festival of Reason, which was held in Notre Dame Cathedral on 10 November 1793.
The dechristianization campaign can be seen as the logical extensionof the materialist philosophies of some leaders of the Enlightenment such as Voltaire, while for others with more prosaic concerns it provided an opportunity to unleash resentments against the Catholic Church (in the spirit of conventional anti-clericalism) and its clergy.
In August 1789, the State cancelled the taxing power of the Church. The issue of Church property became central to the policies of the new revolutionary government. Declaring that all Church property in France belonged to the nation, confiscations were ordered and Church properties were sold at public auction. In July 1790, the National Constituent Assembly published the Civil Constitution of the Clergy that stripped clerics of their special rights — the clergy were to be made employees of the state, elected by their parish or bishopric, and the number of bishoprics was to be reduced — and required all priests and bishops to swear an oath of fidelity to the new order or face dismissal, deportation or death.
French priests had to receive Papal approval to sign such an oath, and Pius VI spent almost eight months deliberating on the issue. On 13 April 1791, the Pope denounced the Constitution, resulting in a split in the French Catholic Church. Over fifty percent became abjuring priests ("jurors"), also known as "constitutional clergy", and nonjuring priests as "refractory clergy".
In September 1792, the Legislative Assembly legalized divorce, contrary to Catholic doctrine. At the same time, the State took control of the birth, death, and marriage registers away from the Church. An ever-increasing view that the Church was a counter-revolutionary force exacerbated the social and economic grievances and violence erupted in towns and cities across France.
In Paris, over a forty-eight-hour period beginning on 2 September 1792, as the Legislative Assembly (successor to the National Constituent Assembly) dissolved into chaos, three Church bishops and more than two hundred priests were massacred by angry mobs; this constituted part of what would become known as the September Massacres. Priests were among those drowned in mass executions ( noyades ) for treason under the direction of Jean-Baptiste Carrier; priests and nuns were among the mass executions at Lyons, for separatism, on the orders of Joseph Fouché and Collot d'Herbois. Hundreds more priests were imprisoned and made to suffer in abominable conditions in the port of Rochefort.
Anti-Church laws were passed by the Legislative Assembly and its successor, the National Convention, as well as by département councils throughout the country. Many of the acts of dechristianization in 1793 were motivated by the seizure of Church gold and silver to finance the war effort. English: Sunday). The Gregorian calendar, an instrument decreed by Pope Gregory XIII in 1582, was replaced by the French Republican Calendar which abolished the sabbath, saints' days and any references to the Church. The seven-day week became ten days instead. It soon became clear, however, that nine consecutive days of work were too much, and that international relations could not be carried out without reverting to the Gregorian system, which was still in use everywhere outside of France. Consequently, the Gregorian Calendar was reimplemented in 1795.In November 1793, the département council of Indre-et-Loire abolished the word dimanche (
Anti-clerical parades were held, and the Archbishop of Paris, Jean-Baptiste-Joseph Gobel, was forced to resign his duties and made to replace his mitre with the red "Cap of Liberty." Street and place names with any sort of religious connotation were changed, such as the town of St. Tropez, which became Héraclée. Religious holidays were banned and replaced with holidays to celebrate the harvest and other non-religious symbols. Many churches were converted into "temples of reason," in which Deistic services were held.Local people often resisted this dechristianisation and forced members of the clergy who had resigned to conduct Mass again. Maximilien Robespierre and the Committee of Public Safety denounced the dechristianizers as foreign enemies of the Revolution, and established their own new religion. This Cult of the Supreme Being, without the alleged "superstitions" of Catholicism, supplanted both Catholicism and the rival Cult of Reason. Both new religions were short-lived. Just six weeks before his arrest, on 8 June 1794, the still-powerful Robespierre personally led a vast procession through Paris to the Tuileries garden in a ceremony to inaugurate the new faith. His execution occurred shortly afterward, on 28 July 1794.
By early 1795 a return to some form of religion-based faith was beginning to take shape and a law passed on 21 February 1795 legalized public worship, albeit with strict limitations. The ringing of church bells, religious processions and displays of the Christian cross were still forbidden.
As late as 1799, priests were still being imprisoned or deported to penal colonies. Persecution only worsened after the French army led by General Louis Alexandre Berthier captured Rome in early 1798, declared a new Roman Republic, and also imprisoned Pope Pius VI, who would die in captivity in Valence, France in August 1799. However, after Napoleon seized control of the government in late 1799, France entered into year-long negotiations with new Pope Pius VII, resulting in the Concordat of 1801. This formally ended the dechristianization period and established the rules for a relationship between the Catholic Church and the French State.
Victims of the Reign of Terror totaled somewhere between 20,000 and 40,000. According to one estimate, among those condemned by the revolutionary tribunals about 8 percent were aristocrats, 6 percent clergy, 14 percent middle class, and 70 percent were workers or peasants accused of hoarding, evading the draft, desertion, rebellion, and other purported crimes.Of these social groupings, the clergy of the Catholic Church suffered proportionately the greatest loss.
Anti-Church laws were passed by the Legislative Assembly and its successor, the National Convention, as well as by département councils throughout the country. The Concordat of 1801 endured for more than a century until it was abrogated by the government of the Third Republic, which established a policy of laïcité on 11 December 1905.
Under threat of death, imprisonment, military conscription, and loss of income, about twenty thousand constitutional priests were forced to abdicate and hand over their letters of ordination, and six thousand to nine thousand of them agreed or were coerced to marry. Many abandoned their pastoral duties altogether.Nonetheless, some of those who had abdicated continued covertly to minister to the people.
By the end of the decade, approximately thirty thousand priests had been forced to leave France, and several hundred who did not leave were executed.Most French parishes were left without the services of a priest and deprived of the sacraments. Any non-juring priest faced the guillotine or deportation to French Guiana. By Easter 1794, few of France's forty thousand churches remained open; many had been closed, sold, destroyed, or converted to other uses.
Victims of revolutionary violence, whether religious or not, were popularly treated as Christian martyrs, and the places where they were killed became pilgrimage destinations.Catechising in the home, folk religion, syncretic and heterodox practices all became more common. The long-term effects on religious practice in France were significant. Many who were dissuaded from their traditional religious practices never resumed them.
At first the new revolutionary government attacked Church corruption and the wealth of the bishops and abbots who ruled the Church -- causes with which many Christians could identify. Clerical privileges were abolished ...
The cult was a deliberate attempt to counter the unsuccessful efforts at dechristianization, and the atheistic Cult of Reason, which reached its high point in the winter of the previous year.
The French Revolution began in May 1789 when the Ancien Régime was abolished in favour of a constitutional monarchy. Its replacement in September 1792 by the First French Republic led to the Execution of Louis XVI in January 1793, and an extended period of political turmoil. This culminated in the appointment of Napoleon as First Consul in November 1799, which is generally taken as its end point. Many of its principles are now considered fundamental aspects of modern Liberal democracy.
The Reign of Terror, commonly The Terror, was a period of the French Revolution when, following the creation of the First French Republic, a series of massacres and numerous public executions took place in response to revolutionary fervour, anticlerical sentiment, and spurious accusations of treason by Maximilien Robespierre and the Committee of Public Safety.
The Committee of Public Safety, created in April 1793 by the National Convention and then restructured in July 1793, formed the provisional government in France during the Reign of Terror (1793–1794), a phase of the French Revolution. The Committee of Public Safety succeeded the previous Committee of General Defence and assumed its role of protecting the new republic against foreign attacks and internal rebellion. As a wartime measure, the committee was given broad supervisory powers over the armed forces, judiciary and legislature. It was formed as an administrative body to supervise and expedite the work of the executive bodies of the convention and of the government ministers appointed by the convention.
The relations between the Catholic Church and the state have been constantly evolving with various forms of government, some of them controversial in retrospect. In its history it has had to deal with various concepts and systems of governance, from the Roman Empire to the medieval divine right of kings, from nineteenth- and twentieth-century concepts of democracy and pluralism to the appearance of left- and right-wing dictatorial regimes. The Second Vatican Council's decree Dignitatis humanae stated that religious freedom is a civil right that should be recognized in constitutional law.
Jacques René Hébert was a French journalist and the founder and editor of the extreme radical newspaper Le Père Duchesne during the French Revolution.
This is a glossary of the French Revolution. It generally does not explicate names of individual people or their political associations; those can be found in List of people associated with the French Revolution.
The Civil Constitution of the Clergy was a law passed on 12 July 1790 during the French Revolution, that caused the immediate subordination of the Catholic Church in France to the French government.
Anti-clericalism is opposition to religious authority, typically in social or political matters. Historical anti-clericalism has mainly been opposed to the influence of Roman Catholicism. Anti-clericalism is related to secularism, which seeks to separate the church from public and political life.
The War in the Vendée was a counter-revolution in the Vendée region of France during the French Revolution. The Vendée is a coastal region, located immediately south of the Loire River in western France. Initially, the war was similar to the 14th-century Jacquerie peasant uprising, but quickly acquired themes considered by the Jacobin government in Paris to be counter-revolutionary, and Royalist. The uprising headed by the newly formed Catholic and Royal Army was comparable to the Chouannerie, which took place in the area north of the Loire.
Jean-Baptiste-Joseph Gobel was a French Catholic cleric and politician of the Revolution. He was executed during the Reign of Terror.
Anti-Catholicism is hostility towards Catholics or opposition to the Catholic Church, its clergy, or its adherents. At various points after the Reformation, some majority Protestant states, including England, Prussia, and Scotland made anti-Catholicism and opposition to the Pope and Catholic rituals major political themes, and the anti-Catholic sentiment which resulted from it frequently lead to religious discrimination against Catholic individuals. Historian John Wolffe identifies four types of anti-Catholicism: constitutional-national, theological, popular and socio-cultural.
The Cult of the Supreme Being was a form of deism established in France by Maximilien Robespierre during the French Revolution. It was intended to become the state religion of the new French Republic and a replacement for Roman Catholicism and its rival, the Cult of Reason. It went unsupported after the fall of Robespierre and was officially proscribed when Napoleon restored Catholicism in France.
The Cult of Reason was France's first established state-sponsored atheistic religion, intended as a replacement for Catholicism during the French Revolution. After holding sway for barely a year, in 1794 it was officially replaced by the rival Cult of the Supreme Being, promoted by Robespierre. Both cults were officially banned in 1802 by Napoleon Bonaparte with his Law on Cults of 18 Germinal, Year X.
The Hébertists, or Exaggerators were a radical revolutionary political group associated with the populist journalist Jacques Hébert, a member of the Cordeliers club. They came to power during the Reign of Terror and played a significant role in the French Revolution.
Religion in France is diverse under secular principles. It can attribute its diversity to the country's adherence to freedom of religion and freedom of thought, as guaranteed by the 1789 Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen. The Republic is based on the principle of laïcité enforced by the 1880s Jules Ferry laws and the 1905 French law on the Separation of the Churches and the State. Catholic Christianity, the religion of a plurality of the French people, is no longer the state religion that it was before the French Revolution, as well as throughout several non-republican regimes of the 19th century.
The Battles of Fontenay-le-Comte were fought on 16 May 1793 and on 25 May 1793 during the French Revolutionary Wars, between forces of the French Republic under Alexis Chalbos and Royalist forces under Marquis de Lescure and Charles de Bonchamps. The battle was fought near the town of Fontenay-le-Comte in Vendée, France, and ended in a Royalist victory. The first battle resulted in the town's successful resistance to the insurgent army; the second battle resulted in the Vendean victory.
Irreligion in France has a long history and a large demographic constitution, with the advancement of atheism and the deprecation of theistic religion dating back as far as the French Revolution. In 2015, according to estimates, at least 29% of the country's population identifies as atheists and 63% identifies as non-religious.
Historians since the late 20th century have debated how women not shared in the French Revolution and what short-term impact it had on French women. Women had no political rights in pre-Revolutionary France; they were considered "passive" citizens, forced to rely on men to determine what was best for them. That changed dramatically in theory as there seemingly were great advances in feminism. Feminism emerged in Paris as part of a broad demand for social and political reform. The women demanded equality to men and then moved on to a demand for the end of male domination. Their chief vehicle for agitation were pamphlets and women's clubs, especially the Society of Revolutionary Republican Women. However, the Jacobin element in power abolished all the women's clubs in October 1793 and arrested their leaders. The movement was crushed. Devance explains the decision in terms of the emphasis on masculinity in wartime, Marie Antoinette's bad reputation for feminine interference in state affairs, and traditional male supremacy. A decade later the Napoleonic Code confirmed and perpetuated women's second-class status.
The Machecoul massacre is one of the first events of the War in the Vendée, a revolt against mass conscription and the civil constitution of the clergy. The first massacre took place on 11 March 1793, in the provincial city of Machecoul, in the district of the lower Loire. The city was a thriving center of grain trade; most of the victims were administrators, merchants and citizens of the city.
Noël Pinot was a refractory priest who was guillotined during the War in the Vendée. He was beatified by the Catholic Church and considered a martyr.