Excursions with Smolny Cathedral
The white and blue Smolny Cathedral represents a major part of one of the best architecture monuments in Russian baroque style — the Smolny ensemble. This ensemble located on the left bank of the Neva River includes several constructions built at various time: the Smolny Cathedral, the Smolny monastery, the Smolny Institute and the propylaeum of Smolny. Name «Smolny» itself originates to the word «Smolyanoy» (Russian word for resin) Courtyard that existed at the same place under Peter the Great. Later the small palace was built there for Elisabeth, Peter's younger daughter. Succeeding to the Russian throne in 1741 she decided to erect the monastery at this picturesque place. Well-known architect B.-F. Rastrelli was assigned to direct the construction works.
The Smolny Cathedral was founded on October, 30 in 1748. Being a zealot of the Baroque style Rastrelli connected in his project an austere grandeur of the Russian Orthodoxy and a fable splendor of secular architecture. The Smolny Cathedral, which was placed in the very center of the monastery yard, is remarkable for its dynamic and harmonious silhouette, elegant d?cor of facades, plentiful gilding. The cathedral and four surrounding churches are colored in traditional for Rastrelli blue and white shades.
The construction of the Smolny Cathedral lasted for a long time. Rastrelli died in 1771, and close to the end of the XVIII-th century all construction works stopped. Only in the 30-s of the XIX-th century works were completed under the design of architect V. Stasov. Stasov also projected an elegant iron-clad grate for the main entrance of the cathedral. Nevertheless the original plans of Rastrelli were not fulfilled all through. Nobody ventured to erect the unique Rastrelli's dream, many-tier belfry 140 meters high — apprehension existed that it would violate the wholeness of cityscape.
The Smolny Cathedral suffered much after October revolution of 1917. This glorious temple was turned into a common storehouse. Since 1990 the Smolny Cathedral has become a concert and exhibition hall. The cathedral and four surrounding churches are renovated step by step.