The Smolny Convent & Cathedral

03 May

Poor Elizabeth, daughter of Peter the Great! She had inherited her fathers brilliant intellect, fluent in four languages, was an excellent dancer and rider, and also was commonly considered to be the leading beauty of the Russian Empire. But despite all her extraordinary talents, she saw the Russian throne slip through her fingers, not once but four times! After her father’s death, the Russian throne was inherited, in order, by her mother Catherine I, her nephew Peter II, her cousin Anna, and finally Anna’s newborn grandnephew Ivan VI. Even worse, nobody of royal rank would like to mary a princess which is so out of favor as Elizabeth. The only option left for Elizabeth was to become a nun. But the daughter of Peter the Great could not live in an ordinary monastery so it was decided to construct a new Russian Orthodox monastery for nuns, the Smolny Convent. But the fate turned into Elizabeth’s favor and Ivan turned out to be the poor guy. Shortly after being crowned Russian Tsar at the age of two months, Ivan VI was overthrown by Elizabeth and spent the rest of his life imprisoned.

Elizabeth gladly seized the power and spent the last 21 years of her life as a very successful and loved Empress of Russia. She lavishly spent mony on the grandiose baroque projects of her favourite architect, Bartolomeo Rastrelli, particularly in Peterhof and Tsarskoye Selo. In Saint Petersburg the most eye-catching monuments are the Smolny Convent and the Winter Palace which both where not compleated until after Elizabeth’s death in 1761.

The Smolny Convent & Cathedral is located in a remote part of Saint Petersburg so foreign tourist are rare here. The best way to get here is to go by bus, marshutka or taxi. There is no nearby metro station.

Today, the Smolny Cathedral is not occupied by the orthodox church and are mainly used as a concert hall. The surrounding convent buildings house various offices and government institutions.

A low perspective capture of the magnificent Smolny Cathedral.

The Smolny Cathedral (Смольный собор) in Saint Petersburg, Russia.The Smolny Convent of the Resurrection, located on Ploschad Rastrelli, on the bank of the River Neva, consists of a cathedral and a complex of buildings surrounding it. Smolny Convent was originally built to house the daughter of Peter the Great, Elizabeth, after she was disallowed to take the throne and opted instead to become a nun. However, as soon as her Imperial predecessor, Ivan VI,  was overthrown during a coup, carried out by the royal guards, Elizabeth decided to forget the whole idea of a stern monastic life and happily accepted the offer of the Russian throne.Smolny Convent is one of the architectural masterpieces of the Italian architect Rastrelli, who also created the Winter Palace, the Grand Catherine Palace in Tsarskoye Selo, the Grand Palace in Peterhof and many other major St. Petersburg landmarks. After Elizabeth death in 1762 the new Empress, Catherine the Great, strongly disapproved of the baroque style, and funding that had supported the construction of the convent rapidly ran out. Rastrelli was unable to build the huge bell-tower he had planned and unable to finish the interior of the cathedral. The building was only finished in 1835 by Vasily Stasov with the addition of a neo-classical interior to suit the changed architectural tastes at the time. The Cathedral was consecrated 1835.

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Posted by on May 3, 2011 in History, Photo, Saint Petersburg


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