Visiting Smolny Convent
Smolny Convent is located on Ploschad Rastrelli very close to the famous river Neva. It is composed of the Smolny Cathedral (Smolny Sobor) and the surrounding building complex, which was originally designed to become a nunnery.
The Russian Orthodox convent was built to house Elizabeth, the daughter of Peter the Great, who wanted to become a nun after her father’s death. To this day the light-blue and white coloured Smolny Cathedral (Smolny Sobor), built between 1748 and 1764, remains the heart of the building complex. It is considered a masterpiece of the Italian architect Bartolomeo Rastrelli, who has also designed the Winter Palace, the Grand Catherine Palace (Yekaterininsky) in Tsarskoye Selo (Pushkin), the Grand Palace in Peterhof and many other major architectural landmarks of St. Petersburg. In the beginning of the 18th century the convent became home to the Smolny Institute, Russia’s first state school for girls.
Nowadays, Smolny Cathedral functions mainly as a concert hall, while the surrounding convent buildings house offices and government institutions. If you are a student of sociology, political science or international relations, it might be interesting for you to know that the regarding faculties of Saint Petersburg State University are located in buildings around the cathedral.
I enjoyed my visit to the Smolny Convent, simply because I have never seen a comparable place before. With all those Disney-like light blue and white colours pleasing my eye, I felt like visiting the fairytale castle that my 4-year old I has always dreamt of living in. The arsenal is quite extensive, so I recommend you to plan spending some time there and not just rushing through. You can take a walk across the covent, visit the cathedral and depending on your Russian skills read up a lot on its history inside of the cathedral. If your Russian skills are not yet developed enough, I definitely recommend you to read up on the history of the building complex, because it is really quite interesting to find out about how Russian history always had an impact on the state or function of the convent.
You should visit Smolny Convent if you….
- are interested in baroque architecture
- want to visit a unique housing complex
- want to learn more about Russian history
- like to discover places by foot
This blog was brought to you by Ayla, currently studying Russian at Liden and Denz.