The Smolny Cathedral is one of the most picturesque buildings of St. Petersburg. It is a part of the architectural ensemble of the Smolny Convent, which was created at the request of the Empress Elizabeth Petrovna, Peter the Great’s daughter.
The Smolny Cathedral is the centre of the monastery complex. Churches are built around it on four sides, and the entire space of the architectural ensemble forms the shape of a cross.
Before the foundation of St. Petersburg, the Spasskoye village was located on the left bank of the Neva. Under Peter I, by 1725, A large Smolny yard was built on this place, where they made and stored tar (“smola” in Russian) for construction of the ships.
The Palace for the daughter of Peter the Great, Elizabeth, the future empress, who entered the Russian throne in 1741, was built next to the yard. She spent her younger days here. Later Elizabeth established a monastery, which included a cathedral, churches, a bell tower and an institute for girls of noble birth. A fire broke out in the Smolny Palace in 1744 two. The territory was cleared for new construction.
When Russia went to the Seven Years War, construction was slowed down, and after the death of Empress Elizabeth Petrovna in 1761, it stopped. The cathedral remained unfinished for almost 70 years, which gradually worsened the state of the building.
The construction of the cathedral continued in the 1820s. The cathedral was consecrated in the name of the Resurrection of Christ in 1835.
Bell tower and belfry
The architect Bartolomeo Rastrelli, during the construction of the Smolny Monastery, wanted to realize the project of the highest 140-meter bell tower in Europe with five tiers. Its lower arch was supposed to be the main entrance to the monastery, the second tier was the church, and the four upper ones were a bell tower.
12 bells were cast for the belfry towers. The cathedral has five chapters, but only one of them belongs to the temple. The remaining four are bell domes, in the lower tier of which the belfry is located.
The highest observation deck of St. Petersburg, which overlooks the Bolsheokhtinsky Bridge and the Neva River is located here.
The entrance to the territory of Smolny is decorated with columns. Their project was developed in 1923. Columns of simple, laconic form are the model of Russian classicism. Two rows of five columns located on both sides of the entrance to the central alley of the garden.
The territory near the Smolny Monastery has long been empty. The garden appeared here in 1810. The territory was planted with flowers and trees, fountains appeared in front of the cathedral.
Now this garden is a monument of landscape art. Sakura shrubs donated by the Japanese royal family for the 300th anniversary of St. Petersburg were planted in the garden in 2013.
The entrance to the garden is free
The interior of the church hall was designed by Russian architect Vasiliy Stasov. The walls of the hall are lined with white marble and decorated with stucco in the form of flower garlands, palm and olive branches, seashells. Three iconostases are installed in the Cathedral. The fence in front of the altar is made of crystal.
All the icons and valuable items of interior decoration were looted after the cathedral closure in the 20s of the last century. Icons painted by the famous Russian painter Alexei Venetsianov are kept in the Smolny Cathedral today.
Cathedral of educational institutes
The first Russian women’s educational institution was opened in the building of the Smolny Monastery in 1764. Empress Maria Feodorovna, the wife of Pavel I, took it under her jurisdiction and founded the charitable Department of Institutions in 1796. In 1806, a separate building was built for the pupils – the Smolny Institute, which became another part of the monastic complex. The institute was closed in 1917.
By order of Nicholas I, the Smolny Cathedral became the temple of educational institutions. In memory of his coverage, a medal was cast with the image of a cathedral and the image of Christ blessing children. The names of educational institutions included in Department, established by Maria Fedorovna, were indicated on the altar wall. Students participated in annual solemn worship services.
Legends and mysteries
- Even before the foundation of St. Petersburg, the place of future construction of Smolny was considered to be the “devil’s shore”, and the people living there were accused of having the connection with evil spirits. An interesting fact is that Peter I ordered to build the Smolny Yard and store the tar, which is associated with the biblical hell.
- Some people see the ghost of a pharmacist who lived near the cathedral. In preparing his potions, he used the blood of pigeons that he caught on the belfry of the Smolny Cathedral. One day there was an accident: the pharmacist fell from a height, crashing to death. Since then, his ghost, sneaking behind birds, sometimes can be seen on the belfry.
The history of the Smolny Cathedral is strangely connected with number 87:
- It took 87 years to build the Smolny Cathedral
- Church services were held there 87 years
- The first prayer service was held after 87 years since the closure
7 am – 8 pm
At the same time, you can visit the observation deck on the cathedral belfry. It is recommended to make a donation in the amount of 150 rubles.
Rastrelli Square, 1
How to get
- Bus: 46, 54, 74, 136
- Routed taxicab: 46, К 76