A Brill Calendar: September 22
Few features of the French Revolution have been as visionary and idealistic as the Republican Calendar Reform, which came into effect September 22 1792.
This was the day of the proclamation of the Republic, and also the date of the autumnal exquinox; one of the two days in the solar year when day and night are of the same length. The first day of the first month of each solar year would be called henceforth ‘1 Vendémiaire’ (‘Vintage’): the dozen reads like an experimental French poem: Vendémiaire, brumaire, frimaire/Nivôse, pluviôse, ventôse/Germinal, floréal, prairial/Messidor, thermidor, fructidor; please note the four seasons in the sequence.
It is seldom that a high-spirited scheme, meant to outlast eternity and to regulate all communal activity (and technically perfectly able to do the job), stayed in use for such a short time: during Nivôse An XIV Napoleon’s Empire returned to the Gregorian world. The calendar reforms as they were generated during the two most recent millennia since antiquity give a birds-eye view of the Western world. Until Julius Caesar the calendar is vested in the city of Rome, transcending itself in Early Europe, while the world of Islam takes a fundamentally different approach by disregarding the fixed length of the solar year. The Jewish calendar, on the other hand, remains a tradition within itself. The Gregorian calendar reform of 1582 can also be viewed as a token of an increasing fragmentation within Christianity.
It should be noted, by the way, that voices were raised to reform the calendar of the Kingdom of France and to liberate it from ecclesiastical associations, well before the French Revolution.