De-Christianizers and de-Christianization in the Gironde during the Year II

Kenneth Richard Fenster, Marquette University


The dissertation, "De-Christianizers and De-Christianization in the Gironde during the Year II", identifies the proponents of the de-Christianization and describes its many different manifestations. The principal agent of the de-Christianization in the department was the representative on mission, Claude-Alexandre Ysabeau. But, local men--district administrators, village elites, members of the popular societies, and especially a select group of men from the Club National of Bordeaux--also assumed a vital role in the campaign. The de-Christianization depended on the voluntary efforts and participation of these local individuals. It genuinely reflected the desires and aspirations of a significant minority of the local population. The de-Christianization was destructive and creative. The de-Christianizers actively sought to destroy the Roman Catholic faith and to replace it with a secular ideology based on the revolutionary political values of liberty, reason, and the dignity of humanity. Consequently, they closed churches, stripped them of all visible signs of the traditional faith, and reopened them as temples dedicated to Reason or to the Supreme Being. They ridiculed Catholicism in sacrilegious masquerades that also inaugurated secular cults honoring the revolutionary values of liberty or reason. Above all, the de-Christianizers sought to have clergymen abdicate the priesthood. They saw priests as loathsome, evil beings who were implacable enemies of the Revolution. Because the direct pressure of the de-Christianizers, the vast majority of clergymen exercising ecclesiastical functions in the department as of October 1793 abdicated the priesthood during the Year II. In the towns and especially the villages of the department, the overwhelming reaction to the de-Christianization was conformity and indifference. In the present state of research, only a preliminary explanation can be offered to account for this response to the movement. There is evidence that throughout the eighteenth-century, but especially after 1760, the people of the Gironde became increasingly detached from traditional forms of religious behavior. The evidence suggests further that they became increasingly secular in outlook. It may well be that this transformation of religious attitudes culminated in the de-Christianization of the Year II.

Recommended Citation

Fenster, Kenneth Richard, "De-Christianizers and de-Christianization in the Gironde during the Year II" (1993). Dissertations (1962 - 2010) Access via Proquest Digital Dissertations. AAI9325677.