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ABOUT RUSSIA / GEOGRAPHY AND NATURE / PEARLS OF RUSSIA / SMOLNY CATHEDRAL


Pearls of Russia

Cultural heritage

The Smolny Cathedral

The Smolny Cathedral was meant to become the main church of a convent, but it had to be very special. Elisabeth, daughter of Peter the Great was not allowed to rule the country, so she decided to become a nun. It was decided to build a convent for her. But as soon as her predecessor was overthrown during a coup, carried out by the royal guards, she decided to forget the whole idea of a stern monastic life and happily accepted the offer of the Russian throne.

Though the age in which she lived was rather harsh, Elisabeth (especially in her younger years) was an amazingly joyful woman, who later displayed a special liking for different types of entertainment. As Empress she NEVER WORE THE SAME BALL DRESS TWICE, which has left us with a huge collection of mid-18th century dresses. Now, when you know the kind of character that she had, you can understand why the convent is so picturesque.

The blue-and-white building of the Smolny Cathedral is one of the most fabulous works of Rastrelli (the creator of the Winter Palace, the Grand Catherine (Yekaterininsky) Palace in Pushkin, the Grand Palace in Peterhof, and other major landmarks). The cathedral is the centerpiece of the convent, built by Rastrelli in 1748-64. When Elisabeth's reign came to a close, the funding for the convent had quickly ran out. Thus Rastrelli was unable to build a huge bell-tower that was planned and to finish the interior of the Cathedral. The building was finished only in 1832-35. By then the fashion had changed and the interior of the Cathedral was done in neo-classical style. So, when you come in, don't be surprised to see that the interior is so different from the facade.

Nowadays, the Smolny Cathedral is used mostly as a concert hall. The chambers of the convent are used by some local government institutions and offices.

Location: Rastrelli Square, St.-Petersburg



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