The Smolny Cathedral

The Smolny Cathedral is often considered one of the finest examples of baroque architecture in the world. It holds the record in the city for the time it took to construct – 87 years. There are four churches within the complex, positioned to form a cross. The name of the cathedral comes from the word “tar” in Russian, “smola”, as the area served as a factory and storage for the Admiratly shipyard before it became a holy place.

Shortly before her 40th birthday the empress Elizabeth decided to build a convent for 120 young women from noble families with herself as their prioress. The construction began in 1749 under the architect Bartomomeo Rastrelli. Thousands of soldiers and craftsmen were used to lay the foundations and erect the walls. Elizabeth died in 1761 and never saw the opening ceremony of the Smolny Cathedral. The next empress, Catherine the Great, established the Educational Society for girls of noble families in the cathedral.

The convent was closed and the nuns transferred elsewhere during the reign of Peter I. The Smolny Institue building was built nearby and housed the students there instead at the beginning of the 19th century. The construction of the cathedral was finally finished in 1835 during the reign of Nicholas I, but was closed in 1923 by the Bolsheviks and used as a storage facility. In 1974 a branch of the Museum of the History of Leningrad was opened at the Smolny Cathedral. In 1990 a concert and exhibiton complex was opened here. Travel to st Petersburg