A summary on:

Dials & Symbols of the French revolution. The Republican Calendar and Decimal time.  
 


Table of contents:

Appendix.
Calendar & time.
Decimal time history.
Dials.
Republican <-> Gregorian conversion.
Names of the days of the Republican year.
Symbols explained.

Sources & further reading.

Compiled by: Fred Kats


SYMBOLS EXPLAINED.

carmagnole

(click for more)

La Carmagnole (click
here for song text)


(click to enlarge)

La Carmagnole. 

A popular however rather filthy song and dance against the imprisoned Royal Family.
 

Eye


Eye

Eye. 

Vigilance, essence and divine knowledge.

clasped hands



Clasped hands.
(click to enlarge)

 
Clasped hands  (les mains serrées).

It appears on (Comtoise) clocks during the early 'royal' period of the revolution and during the 'restoration'  (1814-1830) to express the (re)union of the people and their King.
(symbole de l'union de trois ordres puis de peuple et de son Roi. Ref. René Schopping)  It is also believed to be a symbol of fraternity.


The
Phrygian cap,  Le bonnet Phrygien

     



Mithras
(click pictures for more)



The troyan Paris with Phrygian cap.
(click picture for more)

The Phrygian Cap (Liberty cap)

The 1789 Revolutionaries adopted a cap worn by ancient Persian soldiers and the inhabitants of Phrygia, as they saw it as a symbol of liberation i.e. being freed and purified of evil.

The cap was a symbol of the Persian (initially Indian) deity
Mithras. The cult of Mithras spread widely in the empire of Alexandre the Great and reached Rome through the Phrygians of Asia Minor (Turkey) in the 1st century BC.

The Phrygians wore a high woolen cap, normally falling over the right side of the head. It was their custom to have newly freed slaves officially wear it and this made them citizens in their own right. It was also adopted by freed slaves in Roman times.

The first Phrygian caps appeared on the heads of the French people a few months after the storming of the Bastille. They were made out of red woolen cloth and went with the striped clothes of the most fervent revolutionaries, the sans-culottes. Wearing the red cap was a way of publicly displaying one's patriotism.

This cap was one of the star features of the historic day of 20th June 1792, when the common people surged into the Tuileries. In the angry crowd, which managed to reach the king himself, a municipal guard called Mouchet held out a Phrygian cap, on the end of a pike, to the monarch. The astounded descendant of Saint Louis did not know how to react. He grasped it and put it on his head. This gesture somewhat appeased the hostility of the assailants.

triangle

Triangle with plumb line

Triangle with plumb line. 

The perfect accord and balance.
 

fasces
  

Fasces.

Fasces:

A set of rods bound in the form of a bundle which contained an axe. The word fasces means "bundle" and refers to the fact that it is a bundle of rods, which surrounded an ax in the middle. In ancient Rome, the lictors carried fasces before consul, praetors and dictators, i.e., magistrates that held imperium (which means that they had the right to command and interpret the flight of the birds).

Fasces surmounted by a Phrygian cap. Power to the liberated people.

Note: Fasces has also been the symbol of Italian fascist in the 20th century.

eagle

Eagle Consulaire 1799-1804


Imperial Eagle 1804-1814
 

  Eagles 'Consulaire' and 'Imperial'

In Greek mythology the Eagle was attributed to Zeus (Jupiter)

rooster

Rooster (cockerel): Vigilance.
 

The Gallic Rooster. (Le Coq Gaulois)

One of the national emblems of France, the Coq Gaulois (the Gallic Rooster) decorated French flags during the Revolution. It is the symbol of the French people because of the play on words of the Latin gallus meaning Gaul and gallus meaning 'coq', or rooster.

Caesar called, what was later France, Gallia (Gaul), most likely because the rebellious Celts used a rooster as symbol in their escutcheon.

The rooster has been used as an ornament on church bell towers in France since the early Middle Ages, but at that time it was probably used to symbolize vigilance as roosters are known to crow at the expectation of the sunrise. The Gallic Rooster has been used for centuries by folk artists as a decorative motif on ceramics or carved and veneered wooden furniture.

The rooster played an important role as the revolutionary symbol, but it would become an official emblem under the July Monarchy and the Second Republic when it was seen on the pole of regiments' flags. In 1830, the "Gallic Rooster" replaced the fleur-de-lis as the national emblem, and it was again discarded by Napoleon III.

Since 1848, the rooster have been seen on the seal of the Republic (Liberty is seated on a rudder decorated by a rooster); it was used from 1899 as a motif on gold 20 franc coins and it occasionally appears on stamps.

The rooster is the emblem of (sponsored) French sports teams in international competitions.
 

star


Star, pentagram.
(click to enlarge)

  Star.

Restoration (1814-1824)


  APPENDIX

1) French table of symbols

Le Coq
La Crosse d'Evéque
L'Epée
La Béche
Le Râteau
La Gerbe de Blé

La Fleur de Lys
La Couronne
Deux L entrelacés
La Cocarde Tricolore
La Cocarde Noire
La Cocarde Blanche
La Bastille

L'Arbre
Le Chéne
La Pique
La Jeune Femme au Miroir
Le Drapeau
Le Faisceau
Les Lauriers
Le Triangle
L'Oeil
Le Canon
Le Bonnet Phrygien
La Carmagnole

La Guillotine
Le Lion
La France
La Cornemuse
La Chaîne Brisée
La Corne
La Renommée
L'Ancre
Le Globe
La Ruche
La Palme
 
La Vigilance
Le Clergé
La Noblesse
Le Tiers-Stat
Le Tiers-Etat
L'Abondance,
La Prospérité
La Monarchie
La Monarchie
La Monarchie
L'Emblème des Patriotes
L'Emblème de la Reine
L'Emblème des Royalistes
Le Symbole de la Victoire
du Peuple sur la Tyrannie
La Liberté
Les Vertus Civiques
Le Peuple
La Vérité

La Nation
L'Union, la Fraternité
La Victoire
L'Accord Parfait
La Vigilance
La Force des Armées
Le Symbole de la Liberté
Chanson et Danse populaires
La Justice Révolutionnaire
La Force
La Patrie
La Paix
L'Abolition de l'Esclavage
L'Abondance de la Nature
L'Annonciatrice
L'Espérance
L'Universalité
Le Peuple Laborieux
La Victoire des Armées
   

Sources and further reading:

1) Les Heures Revolutionnaires.
Yves Droz et Joseph Flores
Edité par l'
Afaha.



2) Cadrans de la Révolution, 1789-1800
Watch dials of the French Revolution,
Zifferblätter der französischen Revolution,
Roberto Panicali.
Publisher: Scriptar Lausanne 1972
ISBN: B0000E810O

3)
Decimal time history.
by:
John D. Hynes.

4)
More on the ADOPTION of the new calendar.
 
As to the New Calendar, we may say here rather than elsewhere that speculative men have long been struck with the inequalities and incongruities of the Old Calendar; that a New one has long been as good as determined on. Marechal the Atheist, almost ten years ago, proposed a New Calendar, free at least from superstition: this the Paris Municipality would now adopt, in defect of a better; at all events, let us have either this of Marechal`s or a better,--the New Era being come. Petitions, more than once, have been sent to that effect; and indeed, for a year past, all Public Bodies, Journalists, and Patriots in general, have dated First Year of the Republic. It is a subject not without difficulties. But the Convention has taken it up; and Romme, as we say, has been meditating it; not Marechal`s New Calendar, but a better New one of Romme`s and our own. Romme, aided by a Monge, a Lagrange and others, furnishes mathematics; Fabre d`Eglantine furnishes poetic nomenclature: and so, on the 5th of October 1793, after trouble enough, they bring forth this New Republican Calendar of theirs, in a complete state; and by Law, get it put in action.

(back to context)

Source:
The French Revolution A History.
By Thomas Carlyle.

TABLE OF SYMBOLS

Anchor - Hope
Bagpipe - Peace
Bastille - Emblem of the people conquering tyranny
Bishop's cross - Clergy
Broken chain- Abolishment of slavery
Canon - The power of the army
Carmagnole - Popular republican song and dance
Clasped hands - Fraternity
Corn (horn of plenty) - Nature's abundance
Corn sheaf - Abundance, Prosperity
Crown - Monarchy
Eye - Vigilance
Fame - Announcer
Fasces - Unity, Brotherhood, Power.  1)
Flag - The Nation
Fleur de Lys - Monarchy
France - The country (patriotic)
Globe - Universality
Guillotine - Revolutionary justice
Hive - The working class
Laurel (wreath) - Victory
Lion - Power
Oak - Civil virtue
Palm (branch) - Victory of the armies.
Phrygian cap - Symbol of liberty
Pique - The people
Rake - The third estate or commonalty
Rooster (cockerel) - Vigilance
Rosette tri-colour  - Emblem of the patriots
Rosette black  - Emblem of the Queen
Rosette white  - Emblem of the Royalists
Scale - Justice
Spade - The third estate or commonalty
Star - used during the restoration period
Sword - Nobility
Tree - Liberty
Triangle - The perfect accord
Two enlaced 'L's - Emblem of the Monarchy
Young woman with mirror - Truth


The Republican Calendar and Decimal time

Decimal or Revolutionary time was adopted by decree of the National Convention in 1793. It stipulated that the Gregorian calendar should be abandoned and replaced by the Republican calendar which divided the day into ten hours each with one hundred minutes and then further sub-divided into one hundred seconds.
Although perhaps a logical 'simplification' of timekeeping the habits of the populous were difficult to change. The new system meant having to design a new dial and to this end a competition was organized to invent one that was clear and easy to read.

Despite the efforts of some of the great horological minds the system was never really adopted and clockmakers had no real reason to fully support it because their Revolutionary clocks were useless outside France which ruined their export trade.
By art. 22, April 7, 1795 it was no longer compulsory to use Decimal time and even before then clocks and watches were being made with both the 'old' and 'new' systems as on the example below.
Finally it was decreed that the Decimal system had proved impossible to implement properly and from January 1, 1806 French timekeeping reverted back to the traditional system.


(click to enlarge)

October 5th 1793:
Adoption by the
'Convention du Calendrier   Révolutionnaire de Gilbert Romme et Philippe Fabre d' Eglantine' An important day for horology because of being the starting point of decimal clocks and watches and the 30 days calendar. (more on the adoption)

April 7th 1795 (art.22*):
Suspension of the obligation to use the 'decimal time'

*Art. 22. La disposition de la loi du 4 frimaire an 2, qui rend obligatoire l'usage de la division décimale du jour et de ses parties, est suspendue indéfiniment.

The use of the Republican calendar practically ends the 1st of January 1806.


CALENDAR & TIME

The republican year commences the 22nd of september and ends the 21st of september.

The years were numbered as follows:

Year

II
III
IV
V
VI
VII
VIII
IX
X
XI
XII
XIII
XIV
XV

Starts 22 sept:

1793 
1794 
1795 
1796 
1797 
1798 
1799 
1800 
1801 
1802 
1803 
1804 
1805 
1806

The year is divided in 12 equal months of 30 days each, plus 5 or 6 days called 'sans-culottides' (the days of the poor) which were renamed, after august 24 1794, 'complementary days'. (jours complémentaires)  
They were treated as Holidays, or Festival days and were named:

1
2
3
4
5
6

Jour de la Vertu (Virtue),
Jour de Genie (Genius),
Jour de Travail (Work),
Jour de la Raison (Reason),
Jour de la Recompense (Reward)
Jour de la Revolution (Revolution).


The names of the months are:

Autum:


Winter:


Spring:


Summer:

Vendémiaire
Brumaire
Frimaire 
Nivôse
Pluviôse
Ventôse 
Germinal
Floréal
Prairial
Messidor
Thermidor
Fructidor
Vintage
Fog
Frost
Snow
Rain
Wind
Germ
Flowers
Meadow
Harvest
Heat
Fruit

Each month was divided in three equal parts of 10 days named:

first second third decade
decade
decade

The names of the days of the decades were:

  Primidi
Duodi
Tridi
Quartidi
Quintidi
Sextidi
Septidi
Octidi
Nonidi
Décadi

Each day was divided in: 

                 10 hours of 100 minutes.

A
multiple of ten decimal minutes was often called a 'décime', i.e. one-tenth of a decimal hour. It was also conveniently close to a traditional quarter-hour.


 DIALS
 


Combined traditional & decimal dial
(click to enlarge)

Combined traditional & decimal dial with republican date.
(click to enlarge)
 


 
Combined traditional & decimal dial showing republican days of the week and month.
(click to enlarge)
 

 


    APPENDIX

  2) Republican <-> Gregorian calendar conversion.

Type 'Ctrl + F' to find any word or number.
Click here for a printable pdf version of this table.

Republican           Gregorian
Vendémaire 1 I 22 Sept. 1792
Brumaire 2 22 October
Frimaire 3 21 November
Nivôse 4 21 December
Pluviôse 5 1793 20 January
Ventôse 6 19 February
Germinal 7 21 March
Floréal 8 20 April
Prairial 9 20 May
Messidor 10 19 June
Thermidor 11 19 July
Fructidor 12 18 August
Vendémaire 1 II 22 September
Brumaire 2 22 October
Frimaire 3 22 November
Nivôse 4 21 December
Pluviôse 5 1794 20 January
Ventôse 6 19 February
Germinal 7 21 March
Floréal 8 20 April
Prairial 9 20 May
Messidor 10 19 June
Thermidor 11 19 July
Fructidor 12 18 August
Vendémaire 1 III 22 September
Brumaire 2 22 October
Frimaire 3 22 November
Nivôse 4 21 December
Pluviôse 5 1795 20 January
Ventôse 6 19 February
Germinal 7 21 March
Floréal 8 20 April
Prairial 9 20 May
Messidor 10 19 June
Thermidor 11 19 July
Fructidor 12 18 August
Vendémaire 1 IV 23 September
Brumaire 2 23 October
Frimaire 3 22 November
Nivôse 4 22 December
Pluviôse 5 1796 21 January
Ventôse 6 20 February
Germinal 7 21 March
Floréal 8 20 April
Prairial 9 20 May
Messidor 10 19 June
Thermidor 11 19 July
Fructidor 12 18 August
Vendémaire 1 V 22 September
Brumaire 2 22 October
Frimaire 3 22 November
Nivôse 4 21 December
Pluviôse 5 1797 20 January
Ventôse 6 19 February
Germinal 7 21 March
Floréal 8 20 April
Prairial 9 20 May
Messidor 10 19 June
Thermidor 11 19 July
Fructidor 12 18 August
Vendémaire 1 VI 22 September
Brumaire 2 22 October
Frimaire 3 22 November
Nivôse 4 21 December
Pluviôse 5 1798 20 January
Ventôse 6 19 February
Germinal 7 21 March
Floréal 8 20 April
Prairial 9 20 May
Messidor 10 19 June
Thermidor 11 19 July
Fructidor 12 18 August
Vendémaire 1 VII 22 September
Brumaire 2 22 October
Frimaire 3 22 November
Nivôse 4 21 December
Pluviôse 5 1799 20 January
Ventôse 6 19 February
Germinal 7 21 March
Floréal 8 20 April
Prairial 9 20 May
Messidor 10 19 June
Thermidor 11 19 July
Fructidor 12 18 August
Vendémaire 1 VIII 23 September
Brumaire 2 23 October
Frimaire 3 22 November
Nivôse 4 22 December
Pluviôse 5 1800 21 January
Ventôse 6 20 February
Germinal 7 22 March
Floréal 8 21 April
Prairial 9 21 May
Messidor 10 20 June
Thermidor 11 20 July
Fructidor 12 19 August
Vendémaire 1 IX 23 September
Brumaire 2 23 October
Frimaire 3 22 November
Nivôse 4 22 December
Pluviôse 5 1801 21 January
Ventôse 6 20 February
Germinal 7 22 March
Floréal 8 21 April
Prairial 9 21 May
Messidor 10 20 June
Thermidor 11 20 July
Fructidor 12 19 August
Vendémaire 1 X 23 September
Brumaire 2 23 October
Frimaire 3 22 November
Nivôse 4 22 December
Pluviôse 5 1802 21 January
Ventôse 6 20 February
Germinal 7 22 March
Floréal 8 21 April
Prairial 9 21 May
Messidor 10 20 June
Thermidor 11 20 July
Fructidor 12 19 August
Vendémaire 1 XI 23 September
Brumaire 2 23 October
Frimaire 3 22 November
Nivôse 4 22 December
Pluviôse 5 1803 21 January
Ventôse 6 20 February
Germinal 7 22 March
Floréal 8 21 April
Prairial 9 21 May
Messidor 10 20 June
Thermidor 11 20 July
Fructidor 12 19 August
Vendémaire 1 XII 24 September
Brumaire 2 24 October
Frimaire 3 23 November
Nivôse 4 23 December
Pluviôse 5 1804 22 January
Ventôse 6 21 February
Germinal 7 22 March
Floréal 8 21 April
Prairial 9 21 May
Messidor 10 20 June
Thermidor 11 20 July
Fructidor 12 19 August
Vendémaire 1 XIII 23 September
Brumaire 2 23 October
Frimaire 3 22 November
Nivôse 4 22 December
Pluviôse 5 1805 21 January
Ventôse 6 20 February
Germinal 7 22 March
Floréal 8 21 April
Prairial 9 21 May
Messidor 10 20 June
Thermidor 11 20 July
Fructidor 12 19 August
Vendémaire 1 XIV 23 September
Brumaire 2 23 October
Frimaire 3 22 November
Nivôse 4 22 December
Pluviôse 5 1806 21 January
Ventôse 6 20 February
Germinal 7 22 March
Floréal 8 21 April
Prairial 9 21 May
Messidor 10 20 June
Thermidor 11 20 July
Fructidor 12 19 August
Vendémaire 1 XV 23 September
Brumaire 2 October
Frimaire 3 November
Nivôse 4 December
Pluviôse 5 1807 January
Ventôse 6 February
Germinal 7 March
Floréal 8 April
Prairial 9 May
Messidor 10 June
Thermidor 11 July
Fructidor 12 August
Vendémaire 1 XVI September
Brumaire 2 October
Frimaire 3 November
Nivôse 4 December