What happened in 1582 that made the French go to bed on December 9 and wake up the next day, December 20? A time rift? An enchantment? None of that… just a change of schedule!
Through this article we explain to you why in 1582 we changed the calendar and why this led to the disappearance of ten days.
Julian calendar, bad calculations for Caesar
A new calendar: the Gregorian calendar
A reform difficult to implement
1. Julian calendar, bad calculations for Caesar
Julius Caesar introduced in 46 BC. J-C a new solar calendar bearing his name: the Julian calendar. This calendar will be used across our continent for many centuries until Pope Gregory XIII realizes that there was ... a date concern.
Indeed, probably not very knowledgeable in maths, the emperor and his experts were wrong during their learned calculations and had concluded, falsely, that a year had 365.25 days, when in truth it counts more precisely. 365.2422. It may seem like a detail to you, but this error actually caused a significant shift in the timing, compared to the tropical year.
This was particularly problematic at the time of the celebration of Easter, a holiday of great importance to Christians, as it celebrates the resurrection of Jesus. The day of the Easter celebration is calculated based on the spring equinox. Easter is celebrated on the first Sunday after the first full moon following the transition from winter to spring (are you following?).
However, over the years, the gap widened between the official date of the equinox, set for March 21 on the Julian calendar, and the actual date on which this astronomical phenomenon was observed.
Thus, in 1572 when Gregory XIII became Pope, the equinox was actually observed on March 11, eleven days before the date set by Caesar's calendar.
2. A new calendar: the Gregorian calendar
To remedy the problem and avoid having to one day celebrate Easter at Christmas in 1577, the Pope decided to bring together his best experts in astronomy and mathematics to rectify the system in force.
This is how the Gregorian calendar, the one we still use today, came into being. Compared to the Julian calendar, the Gregorian calendar has a much smaller number of leap years. For the sake of harmonization and practicality, it also provides that the year will begin on the 1er January and not Easter Day.
To recover the delay accumulated all these years, it is however necessary to take in addition to all these modifications a rather drastic decision: to remove that year ten whole days from the calendar.
Gregory XIII thus decides that October 4, 1582 will be, exceptionally, followed by October 15.
3. A reform difficult to implement
While Portugal and Spain immediately bow to the new calendar imposed by the Vatican, this is not the case for many countries, especially Protestant and Orthodox countries, seeing it as yet another dictatorship of the Church.
For several centuries our continent will have several calendars, which, you can imagine, did not make things very easy, especially trade between different countries.
France adopted the Gregorian calendar in December, two months after the Pope’s announcement.
And so it was that in December 1582 the French fell asleep on December 9 and woke up ... on December 20, as if by magic!
It will then be necessary to wait until the 18th century for Great Britain as well as all the Protestant countries to adopt this new calendar, preferring for a long time, according to the astronomer Johannes Kepler, "to be in disagreement with the Sun rather than in agreement. with the Pope ”.
From the beginning of the 20th century, the Orthodox countries began to accept the change of calendar.
If today the Gregorian calendar is officially considered to be the official civil calendar at the international level, the Orthodox Churches of Russia, Serbia, Jerusalem or even Georgia continue to use the Julian calendar for all their festivals. religious.
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