The event at the end of the eighteenth century that ended the thousand-year rule of kings in France and established the nation as a republic . The revolution began in 1789, after King Louis xvi had convened the French parliament to deal with an enormous national debt . The common people's division of the parliament declared itself the true legislature of France, and when the king seemed to resist the move, a crowd destroyed the royal prison (the Bastille ). A constitutional monarchy was set up, but after King Louis and his queen, Marie Antoinette , tried to flee the country, they were arrested, tried for treason, and executed on the guillotine . Control of the government passed to Robespierre and other radicals — the extreme Jacobins — and the Reign of Terror followed (1793–1794), when thousands of French nobles and others considered enemies of the revolution were executed. After the Terror, Robespierre himself was executed, and a new ruling body, the Directory, came into power. Its incompetence and corruption allowed Napoleon Bonaparte to emerge in 1799 as dictator and, eventually, to become emperor. Napoleon's ascent to power is considered the official end of the revolution. ( See Georges Danton and Jean-Paul Marat .)
Although the Constitutional Church had been permitted to continue its work, the Convention now considered Catholicism in any form suspicious. Its association with ancien régime France, its adherence to values not of the Revolution’s making, and the private nature of worship seemed incompatible with the values of the Republic. From here sprung a movement referred to as ‘dechristianisation’, which aimed to excise religion from French society. Constitutional priests were advised to abandon the priesthood and were encouraged – or in some cases forced – to marry. Any priest that continued to practise, whether constitutional or refractory, now faced arrest and deportation. In October 1793, public worship was forbidden and over the next few months all visible signs of Christianity were removed, a policy pursued with particular enthusiasm by revolutionary armies eager to seek revenge on the institution that harboured so many counter-revolutionaries. Church bells were pulled down and melted, ostensibly to help the war effort, crosses were taken from churches and cemeteries, and statues, relics and works of art were seized and sometimes destroyed. Such iconoclasm caused considerable concern at official levels, not least because of the destruction wrought on France’s artistic and cultural heritage. On 23 November 1793, churches were closed, to be converted into warehouses, manufacturing works or even stables. Streets and other public places bearing the names of saints were given new, often Republicanthemed names, and time itself was recast to further repudiate France’s Christian past. The Revolutionary calendar started with the advent of the French Republic (Year 1). The names of its months reflected the seasons and its ten-day week eliminated Sunday as a day of rest and worship. Although such measures were unevenly applied, and in many cases met with considerable local opposition, they reinforced the message that Christianity had no place in the Republic.