Decree establishing the Cult of the Supreme Being (1794)


On 18 Floreal (May 7th 1794) the National Convention, at Robespierre’s beckoning, passed the following decree, establishing the Cult of the Supreme Being:


“1. The French people recognise the existence of the Supreme Being and the immortality of the soul.

2. They recognise that the worship worthy of the Supreme Being is the practice of the duties of man.

3. They place in the first rank of these duties [the obligation] to detest bad faith and tyranny, to punish tyrants and traitors, to rescue the unfortunate, to respect the weak, to defend the oppressed, [and] to do to others all the good that one can and not to be unjust toward anyone.

4. Festivals shall be established to remind man of the thought of the Divinity and of the dignity of his being.

5. They shall take their names from the glorious events of our revolution, from the virtues most dear and most useful to man and from the great benefactions of nature.

6. The French Republic shall celebrate every year the festivals of July 14th 1789, August 10th 1792, January 21st 1793, and May 31st 1793.

7. It shall celebrate on the days of decadi festivals to the Supreme Being and to nature, to the human race, to the French people, to the benefactors of humanity, to the martyrs of liberty, to liberty and equality, to the Republic, to the liberty of the world, to the love of country, to the hatred of tyrants and traitors, to truth, to justice, to modesty, to glory and immortality, to friendship, to frugality, to courage, to good faith, to heroism, to disinterestedness, to stoicism, to love, to conjugal love, to paternal love, to maternal tenderness, to filial piety, to childhood, to youth, to manhood, to old age, to misfortune, to agriculture, to industry, to our forefathers, to posterity, to happiness.

8. The Committees of Public Safety and Public Instruction are charged to present a plan of organisation for these festivals.

9. The National Convention summons all talents worthy to serve the cause of humanity to the honour of contributing to their establishment by hymns and patriotic songs and by all means which can further their beauty and utility.

10. The Committee of Public Safety shall confer distinction upon those works which seem most suited to fulfil these purposes and shall reward their authors.

11. Liberty of worship is maintained, in conformity with the decree of 18 Frimaire.

12. Every gathering that is aristocratic and contrary to public order shall be suppressed.

13. In case of disturbances of which any worship whatsoever may be the occasion or motive, those who may excite them by fanatical preaching or by counterrevolutionary insinuations [or by] gratuitous violence shall likewise be punished with the severity of the law…

15. A festival in honour of the Supreme Being shall be celebrated upon 20 Prairial next. [Jacques-Louis] David is charged to present a plan thereof to the National Convention.”