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Smolny Cathedral

Smolny Cathedral

The Smolny Cathedral is undoubtedly a jam created by an Italian architect Francesco Bartolomeo Rastrelli, the creator of the world-famous Winter Palace and Catherine Palace in Pushkin. Its dazzling cupolas and mesmerizing facades accomplished in baroque style rise majestically above the banks of the Neva River.

The Smolny Cathedral was one of the architectís last projects that he didnít manage to fulfill. Itís construction began on October 30, 1748 on the order of Empress Elizabeth who being notorious for her whimsical behavior wanted this cathedral to become the most stunning structure in Saint-Petersburg. It was part of her plan to build a nunnery and to establish a new school for the girls from the nobility, the first and the most famous state school for girls in the history of the Russian Empire. By 1761, construction on the main church of the monastery, Smolny Cathedral, was completed. Soon, in December, Empress Elizabeth died and the work on the monastery was suspended. When Catherine the Great came to power the monastery was opened, and 14 nuns were assigned to it from monasteries in Moscow and Smolensk, though the construction works were not completed.

Only in 1832, Nicholas I assigned the renowned Russian architect Vasily Stasov the task of finishing the construction that was officially completed in 1835.The majestic cathedral is actually accomplished in the shape of a cross, and boasts a tall two-tiered bell tower topped off by spectacular onion-shaped domes adjoining to the central cupola. Rastrelli specially placed many elaborately decorated columns at various corners along the fa?ade of the building. Moreover, the windows above the entrances were made round with a half-circular pediment placed over them that canít but add to the overall grandeur of the building. Rastrelli originally wanted to put a tall bell tower next to the cathedral which should have been even higher than Saint Peter and Paul Cathedral, the highest building in the city. However, his plans had never been fulfilled.

A half-circle cast-iron tracery fence with meticulous posts and gates fenced in the entrance to the cathedral. There existed three naves in the Cathedral dedicated to Resurrection of Christ, St. Maria Magdalene and St. Elizabeth the Righteous. All three of them were consecrated on June 22, 1835 in the presence of Emperor Nicholas I. The steps before the altar from the temple were decorated with balustrade cut from crystal. The pulpit and steps leading to it were made of marble taken from the Urals. The walls and the columns of the cathedral were made of white carrara marble and coated with sculpted images. The Tsarís place was located on the right side of the cathedral under a canopy. On the other side, there was a pulpit for reading sermons, which was decorated with various carvings. The cathedral''s Ark of the Covenant was made of 180 pounds of silver. There were numerous icons and paintings including the famous work by renowned Russian artist Alexander Venetsianov, "The Resurrection of Christ."

After the revolution, the cathedral underwent the fate of most Russian churches. At first, it was looted and finally the church was closed up in 1923. For many years, the building was not heated, there was no electricity or water and consequently it fell into a state of decay. After the restoration that was carried out only in the 90ies the temple was converted into a concert hall, where Russian spiritual music is being performed.

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