human representations of the appropriate 'goddess'. But a competing, deisti-cally inclined cult of the Supreme Being became progressively more popular, particularly after Maximilien Robespierre and his closest associates mobilized their influence in its favour. Through the end of the Terror in the summer of 1794 hundreds of such cults were celebrated in communities large and small in virtually every department of France. Though the details of such ceremonies differed substantially from town to town, they usually involved close adaptations of elements of Catholic practice, including sermons, hymns, altars, processions, and references to revolutionary 'martyrs' or 'saints'. Most de-Christianizers were dismissive of or positively hostile to Christian theology. Yet they commonly favoured an ethics adapted from the teachings of Christ, invariably portrayed as an early revolutionary. The extreme left de-Christianizer, Jacques Hebert, was not alone in his enthusiastic praise for 'the sans-culotte from Nazareth'.

Most of the attacks on Christianity were abandoned after the fall of Robespierre and the end of the Terror in July 1794, although there would be periodic waves of renewed state anticlericalism over the next five years. For the most part, the revolutionary cults had aroused little or no support outside the larger towns. But by the end of the century substantial segments of both the Catholic and Protestant clergies had been dispersed, imprisoned, or exiled, and their churches disaffected or destroyed. For months and in some cases years, open religious practice would cease to exist. In the meantime, revolutionary armies were carrying similar attacks on the clergy and the church to many other parts of Europe.

In the following years, as the next chapter will explore, the French clergy and laity would successfully manage to reinstate both the Catholic and Protestant churches. Indeed, the early nineteenth century would witness significant movements of religious revival, in large measure in reaction to the events of the Revolution. Yet the traumatic experience of the revolutionary decade had shaken the church to its very foundations. It would leave a legacy of division and hostility between the Catholic Church and progressive politics, between clericalism and anticlericalism that would persist in France and in Europe into the twentieth century.


1. John McManners, Church and society in eighteenth-century France. Vol. 1: The clerical establishment andits socialramifications (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998), p. 3. Cf. Michel Vovelle, Pieté baroque et dechristianisation en Provence au XVIIIe siècle (Paris: Editions du Seuil, 1978).

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