The Smolny Convent at the eastern end of Shpalernaya Street in Saint Petersburg’s city centre, Saint Petersburg, Russia
Some background information:
The Smolny Convent or Smolny Convent of the Resurrection, is a large building complex in the city of Saint Petersburg, that was originally intended for a convent. It is located on Ploschad Rastrelli, on the bank of the River Neva, and consists of a cathedral and the buildings surrounding it.
The name "Smolny" derives from the location. In the early days of St. Petersburg a tar factory was located on the convent’s spot ("smola" meaning "tar" in Russian). The tar was processed for use in shipbuilding and maintenance. As a result, the locale was called "smolny".
This Russian Orthodox Smolny convent was built to house Elizabeth, the daughter of Peter the Great. After she was disallowed succession to the throne, she opted to become a nun. However, when her imperial predecessor, Ivan VI, was overthrown during a coup d'état (carried out by the royal guards in 1741), Elizabeth decided against entering monastic life and accepted the offer of the Russian throne. Work on the convent continued with her royal patronage.
The convent's cathedral, a blue-and-white building, is considered to be one of the architectural masterpieces of the Italian architect Francesco Bartolomeo Rastrelli, who also redesigned the Winter Palace, and created the Grand Catherine Palace) in Tsarskoye Selo, the Grand Palace in Peterhof and many other major St. Petersburg landmarks. The cathedral is the centerpiece of the convent, built by Rastrelli between 1748 and 1764. The projected bell-tower was to become the tallest building in St. Petersburg and, at the time, in all of Russia. Elizabeth's death in 1762 prevented Rastrelli from completing this grand design.
When Catherine II assumed the throne, it was found that the new Empress strongly disapproved of the baroque style, and funding that had supported the construction of the convent rapidly ran out. Rastrelli was unable to build the huge bell-tower he had planned and unable to finish the interior of the cathedral. The building was only finished in 1835 by Vasily Stasov with the addition of a neo-classical interior to suit the changed architectural tastes at the time. The cathedral was consecrated on 22 July 1835. Its main altar was dedicated to the Resurrection and the two side altars were dedicated to St. Mary Magdalene and Righteous Elizabeth.
The church was closed by the Soviet authorities in 1923. It was looted and allowed to decay until 1982, when it became a concert hall. In April 2015, Smolny Cathedral was returned to the Russian Orthodox Church, and is now converted back to its original purpose as a church, while the faculties of sociology, political science and international relations of the Saint Petersburg State University are located in some of the buildings surrounding the cathedral.
In close proximity to the convent the Smolny Institute is located, which was chosen by Vladimir Lenin as Bolshevik headquarters in 1917 during the October Revolution. Subsequently, the Smolny Institute became the headquarters of the local Communist Party and also effectively the city hall. After 1991, the historic building was used as the seat of the city mayor and city administration. Today, it is the official residence of the governor of Saint Peterburg and also houses a museum dedicated to Lenin.
Saint Petersburg (in Russian: Санкт-Петербу́рг) is Russia's second-largest city after Moscow, with currently 5.3 million inhabitants, part of the Saint Petersburg agglomeration with a population of 6.2 million (2015). An important Russian port on the Baltic Sea, it has a status of a federal city. Saint Petersburg is also the fourth-largest city in Europe, only excelled by Istanbul, London and Moscow. Other famous European cities like Paris, Berlin, Rome and Madrid are smaller. Furthermore, Saint Petersburg is the world’s northernmost megapolis and called "The Venice of the North", due to its many channels that traverse the city.
Situated on the Neva River, at the head of the Gulf of Finland on the Baltic Sea, it was founded by Tsar Peter the Great on 27th May 1703. On 1st September 1914, the name was changed from Saint Petersburg to Petrograd, on 26 January 1924 to Leningrad, and on 7 September 1991 back to Saint Petersburg. Between 1713 and 1728 and again between 1732 and 1918, Saint Petersburg was the capital of Imperial Russia. In 1918, the central government bodies moved to Moscow, which is located about 625 kilometres (388 miles) to the south-east.
Saint Petersburg is also the cultural capital of Russia. Today, the city is inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage list as an area with 36 historical architectural complexes and around 4000 outstanding individual monuments of architecture, history and culture. It has 221 museums, 2,000 libraries, more than 80 theaters, 100 concert organizations, 45 galleries and exhibition halls, 62 cinemas and around 80 other cultural establishments. Saint Petersburg is home to the Hermitage, one of the largest art museums in the world. Every year the city hosts around 100 festivals and various competitions of art and culture, including more than 50 international ones. In 2017, the city was visited by 7.2 million tourists and it is expected that in the years ahead the number of tourists will still be on the rise.