Ensemble of Smolny Cathedral
Address: Ploshad Rasstrelly, 3
The Smolny ensemble includes a number of structures put up at different times. This territory on the Neva bank, opposite the Nienschanz Fortress put up by the Swedes in the 17th century, was allotted for the tar-yard (Smolianoi dvor); tar was stored and smelted there for the needs of the Admiralty.
In the mid-18th century a construction of the Smolny ensemble was started on the site. The oldest are the buildings of the Voskresensky (Resurrection) Novodevichiy Convent, or the Smolny Convent, as it was known among the citizens.
The second to be built was the Alexandrovsky Boarding School for Girls for educating girls from middle-class families. To the south of the Smolny Convent the Smolny Boarding School for Young Ladies of Noble Birth was erected in 1806 - 8; it was designed in Russian Empire style by D.Quarenghi. In 1917 the Smolny Broading School became the revolutionary headquarters. It was here that Lenin resided during the upheaval. In its Hall of Acts (Aktovy zal) on 25 October, the All-Russian Congress of Soviets conferred power on a Bolshevik government led by Lenin, which ran the country from here until March 1918.
The cathedral is the center piece of a convent built mostly to Rastrelli's designs in 1748-57. His inspiration was to combine baroque details with the forest of towers and onion domes typical of an Old Russian monastery. There is special genius in the proportions of the cathedral (it gives the impression of soaring upwards), to which the convent buildings are a perfect foil.
The building was finished by Vasily Stasov in 1835. The most ambitious part of Rastrelli’s design, a 140-metre-high tiered belfry over the main entrance, was shelved due to lack of funding, but also to the fact that, as the highest structure in the city, it would have caused offence in certain quarters.
Its five domes can be seen in fine weather from Vasilievsky Island. This cathedral is a vivid example of the advanced Baroque Style. Smolny Cathedral was consecrated on July 22, 1835 by Metropolitan Seraphim. There were the main Resurrection altar and the side altars of St. Mary Magdalene and Pious Elizabeth. The church housed 6000 people. In the early 20th century Smolny Cathedral became a congregational church. In 1923 it was closed along with four Orthodox chapels and a Lutheran Church located in Smolny.
Nowadays Smolny Cathedral is not an active church. It has perfect acoustics and is used for musical concerts. There is also a nice gift-shop inside. Recently the observation ground has been opened in Smolny that is the highest one in Saint Petersburg and gives a great overview of the city.