Temple of Reason

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A Republican inscription on a former church: "Temple of the reason and philosophy", Saint Martin, Ivry-La-Bataille

A Temple of Reason (French: Temple de la Raison) was, during the French Revolution, a temple for a new belief system created to replace Christianity: the Cult of Reason, which was based on the ideals of reason, virtue, and liberty. This "religion" was supposed to be universal and to spread the ideas of the revolution, summarized in its "Liberté, égalité, fraternité" motto, which was also inscribed on the Temples.


The symbols of Christianity were covered up and they were replaced by the symbols of the Cult of Reason. In the Churches of Reason, there were specially created services that were meant to replace the Christian liturgy.[1]

Feast of Reason, at the Notre-Dame

For instance, at the Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris, on 10 November 1793, a special ritual was held for the "Feast of Reason": the nave had an improvised mountain on which stood a Greek temple dedicated to Philosophy and decorated with busts of philosophers. At the base of the mountain was located an altar dedicated to Reason, in front of which was located a torch of Truth. The ceremony included the crowd paying homage to an opera singer dressed in blue, white, red (the colours of the Republic), personifying the Goddess of Liberty.[1]

Churches transformed into Temples of Reason[edit]

After Catholicism was banned in 1792, many of its churches were turned into Temples of Reason, including:


According to the conservative critics of the French Revolution, within the Temple of Reason, "atheism was enthroned".[2][3] English theologian Thomas Hartwell Horne and biblical scholar Samuel Davidson write that "churches were converted into 'temples of reason,' in which atheistical and licentious homilies were substituted for the proscribed service".[4]


  1. ^ a b James A. Herrick, The Making of the New Spirituality, InterVarsity Press, 2004 ISBN 0-8308-3279-3, pp. 75–76
  2. ^ The Literary Emporium. J.K. Wellman. 1846. p. 57. The name of the cathedral was thenceforth the Temple of Reason. Atheism was enthroned.
  3. ^ Wellman's Miscellany. J. K. Wellman. 1870. p. 137. The name of the cathedral was thenceforth the Temple of Reason. Atheism was enthroned.
  4. ^ Horne, Thomas Hartwell; Davidson, Samuel (21 November 2013). An Introduction to the Critical Study and Knowledge of the Holy Scriptures. Cambridge University Press. p. 30. ISBN 978-1-108-06772-0.