Krotov Artem

Napoleon Bonaparte and religion

Krotov Artem (2020) "Napoleon Bonaparte and religion ", Vestnik Pravoslavnogo Sviato-Tikhonovskogo gumanitarnogo universiteta. Seriia I : Bogoslovie. Filosofiia. Religiovedenie, 2020, vol. 92, pp. 59-75 (in Russian).

DOI of the paper: 10.15382/sturI202092.59-75


The paper analyses the problem of the role of religion in the life of Napoleon Bonaparte. It shows main approaches to its solution, as well as theistic, atheistic, deistic interpretations. The Emperor’s contemporaries, assessing the degree of his religiosity, often followed their own interests, their views on the church, their political ideals. The problem was complicated by the fact that public statements of the Emperor about religion were fragmentary and were related to the solution of specifi c issues of current politics without revealing his ulterior motives. This creates contradictions in scholarly opinions about Napoleon’s attitude to religion. The article uses a phenomenological method. Drawing on the available facts, one can form a viable opinion about the evolution of Napoleon’s religious ideas. Rejecting for himself in the mature age the possibility to adhere to “blind faith”, he mentioned in conversations on St. Helena that as a child his attitude towards religion was exactly of that kind. The education that he received under guidance of the Franciscans at Brienne Military School, he admitted, gave rise to his fi rst doubts and shook the naive childlike faith. Napoleon blamed unskilful mentors for this as they did not notice how their way of teaching led to undesirable results. During his garrison service in Valence and Auxonne, he read the texts of the deists of the 18th century and was indoctrinated by their ideas. Returning from the Italian march, the glorious general answered those interested in his attitude to religion that he shared the views of the members of the national Institute, i.e. adherents of the school of “ideologists”, who held anti-clerical positions. But after coming to power, he rejects the approach of the “ideologists”, insisting that only Christianity can be the mainstay of good reign and of individual happiness. During this period, his thoughts on religion continue to bear traces of the infl uence of Enlightenment deism, but also go beyond it, severs with it in its key point that are made up of its calls for the eradication of existing religions.


Concordat, Pius VII, Napoleon, deism of 18 century, Ministry of Cults, Catholicism and First Empire in France, “ideologists”


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Information about the author

Krotov Artem

Academic Degree: Doctor of Sciences* in Philosophy;
Academic Rank: Associate Professor;
Place of work: Lomonosov Moscow State University; 27/4 Lomonosovsky Prospect, Moscow, 119234, Russian Federation;
Post: Head of the Department of history and theory of world culture of the Faculty of Philosophy;
ORCID: ORCID iD 0000-0002-0590-4020;
Email: krotov@philos.msu.ru.

*According to ISCED 2011, a post-doctoral degree called Doctor of Sciences (D.Sc.) is given to reflect second advanced research qualifications or higher doctorates.