assemblies in private spaces. Further laws in 1795 permitted citizens to reopen churches under strict regulations, and clergy who swore a new oath of loyalty to the nation could practise again. Butthe Directory continued to advocate republican festivals and calendar and to curtail and police Catholic practice. Notably, refractory priests, religious processions, habits, inscriptions, bell-ringing, and religious foundations were still outlawed.
Moreover, when the revolutionary leadership took a marked swing to the left in the autumn of 1797, the Directory advanced a 'second de-Christianization campaign' that vigorously renewed many of the goals of 1793-94. The Directors worked to replace Sunday worship with a cycle of republican festivals, the culte décadaire, to be celebrated every tenth day of the revolutionary calendar. These national festivals aimed at instilling moral values and patriotism: their subjects rangedfrom youth, marriage, or agriculture to more explicitly political festivals, such as the Founding of the Republic or the 9th of Thermidor. At the suggestion of Director La Revelliere-Lepeaux, the government also promoted a new cult known as Theophilanthropy. Originating from an essay contest at the Institut National, Theophilanthropy was essentially an attempt to transform deism into a practising religion. Its followers professed belief in one God and the immortality of the soul. Its ceremonies attempted to replace the elaborate rituals of Catholicism with a simple grandeur and an eclectic synthesis of moral teachings from sources as varied as Confucius and Calvin. With few exceptions, neither the fetes décadaires nor Theophilanthropy met with sustained success. Their following was especially weak in rural areas. But the official attempt to enforce the republican calendar and its festivals nonetheless created difficulties for Catholics.
Paradoxically, the obstacles and challenges of the late 1790s paved the way for religious creativity among both laity and clergy as they strove to reinvent modes of religious practice. Within the complex legal and political context, the late 1790s witnessed a veritable religious revival. Parishioners and their curés used a wide variety of means - both political and religious - to reclaim their right to practise or to invent new forms of religious expression.
Given the shortage of clergy and the limitations on public practice for the laity, clandestine or domestic rituals and prayers necessarily played a crucial role in cultivating the religious renaissance. Nineteenth-century memoirs abound with images of familial devotion from the late 1790s: fathers recounting or reading aloud the lives of the saints, children learning catechism at a mother's knee, believers reciting the rosary by the hearth or at a spinningbee. As Olwen Hufton has suggested, the rosary may have held special salience for women, as they drew reassurance from a Marianized faith and from communal recitation
Was this article helpful?