Smolny Cathedral is located on the banks of the Neva River. It was initially intended to be the main church of the convent. It was also built to accommodate Elizabeth, the daughter of the Russian Tsar, Peter the Great after she was disallowed to take the Russian throne. Instead, the young woman chose to lead a stern monastic life. However, after her imperial predecessor was overthrown as a result of a coup organized by the royal guards, Elizabeth forgot about the idea of becoming a nun and gladly agreed to take the throne. The spectacular and terrific appearance of Smolny Cathedral, its incredible external decor and impressive design deservedly make the building one of the greatest achievements in the world architecture.
Although the era in which Elizabeth lived was harsh, particularly in her younger age, she was a surprisingly joyful and happy woman displaying a passion for entertainment. As the empress, Elizabeth was notorious for never having worn the same dress twice. Her huge collection of the eighteenth-century dresses still attracts the public attention. The daughter of Peter the Great did not want to leave her native Saint Petersburg that was her father’s beloved creation. She later ordered to build a monastery on the place of the former inner tar yard. Francesco Rastrelli, a famous Italian architect, was entrusted to design the magnificent cathedral. The construction works started in 1749 (Kelly, 2014) after the Empress issued a decree reestablishing in Saint Petersburg a five-domed structure, a prominent feature of the Orthodox Church.
The outstanding white-and-blue building of Smolny Cathedral is undoubtedly the most notable masterpiece of the architect Rastrelli, who also created other symbols of St. Petersburg such as the stunning Winter Palace, the Grand Yekaterininsky Palace, and the Grand Palace in Peterhof. The dazzling white and blue colors of the cathedral created in the Baroque style became the main value of the architectural masterpiece. Rastrelli had been working on the construction for 16 years (Vorhees, 2008). However, according to Millar (2003), Smolny Cathedral was finally completed by Vasily Petrovich Stasov under the Emperor Nicholas I. When the Empress stepped down from the throne, the funding, necessary for building of the monastery, quickly ended. Rastrelli was unable to build a huge bell tower that he had planned or finish the interior of the cathedral. Situated in the center of the yard, the enormous cathedral creates the impression of plasticity, dynamics and lightness. Abundant use of gold leaves, the rich decor of facades, and a perfect combination of white modeling and blue walls make the high cathedral look solemn and festive.
Four churches in the same range of white and blue surround Smolny Cathedral forming a uniform cross-shaped ensemble. The main inspiration of the designers was to combine details of the baroque style with domes and towers typical for an ancient Russian monastery. The specific and genial proportions of the cathedral make an impression of soaring upwards. Each building is regarded as a perfect foil. The constructors also decided to add the neo-classical details to the interior to meet the changing architectural tastes of those days. Nowadays, Smolny Cathedral is no longer a church. Instead, it serves as an exhibition space and a concert hall.
The Resurrection Cathedral as another striking landmark of St. Petersburg is the centerpiece of the complex and recognizable convent located in the northern capital of Russia owing to its gentle tones. Blue color makes it noticeable. Although the political situation prompted changes in Elizabeth’s plans and allowed her to ascend to power, construction of this Orthodox convent continued owing to the financial aid provided by the royal family. The complex was constructed at the site of Elizabeth’s Palace and named after the tar used to seal the hulls of ships in the docks.
When Catherine the Great began her rule, she expressed the dislike of the convent`s Baroque style. Thus, the convent was never completely finished and consecrated until 1835, when the architect Stasov developed the new plan and provided the neo-classical interior in accordance with the architectural taste of that period (Semper, 2011). Before Smolny Cathedral was complete, a large part of the complex served as an institute for education and a school for aristocrats, who later moved to Smolny institute building. In 1918, Vladimir Lenin lived here before the complex had become the communists’ headquarter (Kelly, 2014).
During the Soviet regime, the church and the monastery fell into disrepair. They were left to decay for many decades. The few cared about its historical and architectural significance. The elements of European and Russian architecture were harmonically and perfectly combined. In the twentieth century, significant attention was paid to the reconstruction of the complex of buildings and structures that nowadays serve as classrooms for the Saint Petersburg State University and house various offices and governmental institutions. The enormous cathedral also functions as an attractive concert hall.
It is undoubtedly worth to climb to the top of the bell-towers of the white-and-blue cathedral in order to enjoy a great view over the northern capital of Russia. Smolny Cathedral as the centerpiece of the convent was established to educate young nobles. Nowadays, it serves primarily as an exhibition and a concert hall. Smolny Cathedral is fairly recognized as the gem of Saint Petersburg baroque. According to the royal decree, it was named as the Cathedral of all educational institutions. Many locals and tourists deservedly regard the bell tower of Smolny Cathedral as the highest viewing point of Saint Petersburg that offers an unbelievable panoramic view.