The anti-religious “Festival of Reason” was inaugurated on November 10, 1793. Churches across France were declared to be “Temples of Reason.” The most important ceremony of this festival took place at Notre Dame in Paris, in which the cathedral’s altar was replaced with one dedicated to liberty, and the inscription “To Philosophy” carved over the cathe- dral’s main doors. The culmination of the ceremony was the enthronement of a “Goddess of Reason” on the cathedral’s altar.
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Yet the “Cult of Reason” proved to be short-lived. On May 7, 1794, this was abandoned, being replaced by the more restrained Deist “Cult of the Supreme Being.” Robespierre was anxious that the program of dechristianization was causing growing resentment, and fueling counter-revolutionary sentiment. God required reinstatement – at least, in some modest form. The campaign against Christian symbolism and influence continued. But God was allowed back into the public domain.
Within a decade, the fledgling French Republic found itself overtaken by events, as Napoleon Bonaparte entered Paris, and seized power. A new constitution was pro- claimed on December 15, 1799, declaring the end of the revolutionary era: “Citizens, the Revolution is established upon the principles which began it: it is over.” The restoration of Catholicism soon followed.