Decadi, Cult of

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One of the naturalistic, patriotic religious cults concocted during the french revolution as a substitute for Christianity. The Second Directory promulgated the Decadi as the nation's official cult (179799) and organized it so that the décadi, recurring every tenth day in the French Revolutionary calendar, would be soleminized in such a manner as to replace the services of the Christian Sunday. Although the majority of Frenchmen had refused since 1793 to exchange 36 décadi per year for 52 Sundays as days of rest and religious observance, the Directory in 1797 passed penal legislation insisting on the suspension of work in courts, government offices, schools, factories and shops on the décadi and nullifying contracts and deeds of sale on that date, while requiring the performance of marriage ceremonies on that day alone. Local governments were required to solemnize publicly the official cult, and persons who observed Sundays were threatened with fines and imprisonment lasting one décade (ten days). All the bishops and most of the constitutional clergy as well as the nonjuring priests opposed the suppression of the Lord's Day and demanded the restoration of Christian marriage. Many of them paid for their recalcitrance with imprisonment, transportation to Cayenne, or death on the guillotine.

Marie Joseph Chénier (17641811) was the cult's theorist. François de Neufchâteau (17501828), poet and minister of the interior, was its liturgist; he originated the elaborate ceremonial with its garlanded ploughs, bonfires, chants, imprecations and oaths prescribed for each of the seven major feasts commemorating youth, age, knowledge, agriculture, etc. Ceremonies for ordinary feasts on the décadi, as instituted by the decree of Aug. 30, 1798, were held before an altar dedicated to the fatherland, where a municipal official proclaimed the public enactments of the past ten days, read selections from the Décadaire Bulletin concerning civic virtue, agriculture, the mechanical arts and reported on current events. The congregation then sang some patriotic song; marriages were performed and births were recorded; and school children, who were present with their teachers, were quizzed. All churches were locked on Sundays. On the décadi in Paris, Notre Dame cathedral and 14 other churches were opened for ceremonies. Government officials, teachers, students and persons attending marriages were present perforce, but the mass of the population was indifferent to the cult and absented itself, aware of the powerlessness of the Directory to enforce its will on the entire nation. When Napoleon gained power after the coup d'état of 18th Brumaire (Nov. 9, 1799), he reopened the churches on Sundays. In 1800 the cult ceased to be obligatory. Napoleon officially dissolved it in 1805.

See Also: reason, cult of goddess of; supreme being, cult of the; theophilanthropy.

Bibliography: a. mathiez, La Théophilanthropie et le culte décadaire, 17961801 (Paris 1904). a. latreille, L'Église catholique et la révolution française, 2 v. (Paris 194650). j. leflon, Catholicisme, 3:499.

[m. lawlor]