French Republican Calendar

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History of the Calendar

The French Republican calendar (also known as the Revolutionary calendar) was introduced during the French Revolution to replace the Gregorian calendar and begin a new era. The calendar was based on scientific rather than Christian principles.

This calendar was used for twelve years, from 24 October 1793 to 31 December 1805. (An attempt was made in 1871 to reinstate it, but this attempt failed.) It was used for civil registration records, notarial records, and other government records throughout France and other areas under French rule, including modern Belgium, Luxembourg, and parts of the Netherlands, Germany, Switzerland, and Italy. It also affected records in other areas ruled by the French government, such as Egypt, Malta, Reunion, Louisiana, Guiana, and some Caribbean islands.

Principles of the New Calendar

Each year began on the autumn equinox, and the years were counted from the founding of the French Republic on 22 September 1792.

Each year had twelve months of thirty days each.

Five days, called complementary days, were added to the end of the year to bring the total to 365.

Every four years, beginning with the third year of the Republic, an extra complementary day was added. (Days were added to years 3, 7, 11, and so forth.) During this period, the standard calendar had only two leap years (in 1796 and 1804).

The Months

The twelve months of the French Republican calendar were based on the natural events of the seasons of the year. They do not correspond to the standard months of January through December.

In areas that were not French-speaking, the names of the months were often translated into the language of the record, as shown by the following chart:

Months of the French Republican Calendar

Autumn Months

English French German Dutch Italian Latin
grape harvest Vendémiaire Weinlesemonat Wijnoogstmaand vendemmaio mensis vindemiarum
fog Brumaire Nebelmonat Mistmaand brumaio mensis brumarum
frost Frimaire Reifmonat Rijpmaand frimaio mensus frimarum

Winter months

snow Nivôse Schneemonat Sneeuwmaand nevoso mensis nivium
rain Pluviôse Regenmonat Regenmaand piovoso mensis pluviarum
wind Ventôse Windmonat Windmaand ventoso mensis ventorum

Spring months

germination Germinal Keimmonat Kiemmaand germinale mensis germinum
flowering Floréal Blütenmonat Blœmmaand floreale mensis florum
pasture Prairial Wiesenmonat Grasmaand pratile mensis prætorum

Summer months

harvest Messidor Erntemonat Oostmaand messidoro mensis messium
heat Thermidor* Hitzemonat Hittemaand termidoro mensis thermarum
fruit Fructidor Fruchtmonat Vruchtmaand fruttidoro mensis fructuum
  • Occasionally, the name Fervidor(heat) was used for Thermidor.

Complementary or Feast Days

English French German Dutch Italian Latin
Feast of... Fête de... Fest der... Feest der... giorno della... Festum...
First day virtue la vertu Tugend Deugd virtù virtutis
Second day genius le genie Geistes Vernuft genio ingenii
Third day labor le travail Arbeit Werkzaamheid lavoro laboris
Fourth day opinion l’opinion Meinung Gezindheid opinione opinionis
Fifth day rewards récompenses Belohnungen Beloning ricompènse pretiorum
Sixth day* revolution la révolution Umsturzes/ Revolution Revolutie rivoluzione revolutionis
  • Only used in leap years

Complementary Days

The extra days at the end of the year were called jours complémentaires (complementary days or holidays) or jours-sansculottides (days of the revolutionaries). The complementary days were feast days and each had a name. The above chart shows the names in each language where the calendar was used.

How Dates were Recorded

Dates were usually written out in French or the local language. For example:

  • Le treizième jour du mois de Pluviôse l’an sept de la République Française (The 13th of Pluviose in the seventh year of the French Republic).

The years of the Republic were often designated by Roman numerals. For example:

  • 13 Pluviôse VII (13 Pluviose, seventh year of the Republic).

The complementary (feast) days were recorded in two ways:

  • By the name of the feast. Example: the feast day of Labor in the ninth year of the French Republic.
  • By the number (first, second, third, and so on) of the day.
  • Example: the third complementary day of the ninth year of the French Republic.

How to Calculate the Standard Date for a French Republican Date

Four calendars are on the following pages. Each calendar has the French Republican months across the top, and thirty days on the left-hand column.

Find the French Republican year for the date you are converting at the top of one of the four calendars.

Find the day (of the French month) in the left column, and move across the page to the French month (abbreviated at the top of the chart). This will give you the standard (Gregorian) month and day.

Return to the top of the calendar. The corresponding standard years are on the same horizontal line as the French Republican year. The correct standard year for the date you are converting is on the same side of the heavy black line as the month and day you found in step 2.

Example: 10 Vendémiaire de l’an IX

Year IX is on Calendar Three

On Calendar Three, find the number 10 in the left column and move across the page to the column for Vendémiaire. This box says 2 Oct. Dates on the left side of the heavy black line for the ninth year of the Republic correspond to 1800. Thus 10 Vendémiaire IX corresponds to 2 October 1800.

                                      Calendar One

Year One I.............................1792    1793

Year Two II.............................1793    1794

Year Three III..........................1794    1795

Year Five V............................1796    1797

Year Six VI............................1797    1798

Year Seven VII.......................1798    1799

1 22 Sep 22 Oct 21 Nov 21 Dec 20 Jan 19 Feb
2 23 Sep 23 Oct 22 Nov 22 Dec 21 Jan 20 Feb
3 24 Sep 24 Oct 23 Nov 23 Dec 22 Jan 21 Feb
4 25 Sep 25 Oct 24 Nov 24 Dec 23 Jan 22 Feb
5 26 Sep 26 Oct 25 Nov 25 Dec 24 Jan 23 Feb
6 27 Sep 27 Oct 26 Nov 26 Dec 25 Jan 24 Feb
7 28 Sep 28 Oct 27 Nov 27 Dec 26 Jan 25 Feb
8 29 Sep 29 Oct 28 Nov 28 Dec 27 Jan 26 Feb
9 30 Sep 30 Oct 29 Nov 29 Dec 28 Jan 27 Feb
10  1 Oct 31 Oct 30 Nov 30 Dec 29 Jan 28 Feb
11  2 Oct  1 Nov  1 Dec 31 Dec 30 Jan 29 Feb
12  3 Oct  2 Nov  2 Dec  1 Jan 31 Jan  1 Mar
13  4 Oct  3 Nov  3 Dec  2 Jan  1 Feb  2 Mar
14  5 Oct  4 Nov  4 Dec  3 Jan  2 Feb  3 Mar
15  6 Oct  5 Nov  5 Dec  4 Jan  3 Feb  4 Mar
16  7 Oct  6 Nov  6 Dec  5 Jan  4 Feb  5 Mar
17  8 Oct  7 Nov  7 Dec  6 Jan  5 Feb  6 Mar
18  9 Oct  8 Nov  8 Dec  7 Jan  6 Feb  7 Mar
19 10 Oct  9 Nov  9 Dec  8 Jan  7 Feb  8 Mar
20 11 Oct 10 Nov 10 Dec  9 Jan  8 Feb  9 Mar
21 12 Oct 11 Nov 11 Dec 10 Jan  9 Feb 10 Mar
22 13 Oct 12 Nov 12 Dec 11 Jan 10 Feb 11 Mar
23 14 Oct 13 Nov 13 Dec 12 Jan 11 Feb 12 Mar
24 15 Oct 14 Nov 14 Dec 13 Jan 12 Feb 13 Mar
25 16 Oct 15 Nov 15 Dec 14 Jan 13 Feb 14 Mar
26 17 Oct 16 Nov 16 Dec 15 Jan 14 Feb 15 Mar
27 18 Oct 17 Nov 17 Dec 16 Jan 15 Feb 16 Mar
28 19 Oct 18 Nov 18 Dec 17 Jan 16 Feb 17 Mar
29 20 Oct 19 Nov 19 Dec 18 Jan 17 Feb 18 Mar
30 21 Oct 20 Nov 20 Dec 19 Jan 18 Feb 19 Mar

Calendar Four

Paper publication: First Edition, Feb. 1991.