Smolny Convent

The Smolny Convent is a complex of buildings from different periods. The oldest belong to the Novodevichy Convent of the Resurrection, located on the site of the Pitch Yard (Russian: Smolyanoi dvor) built in the first years after the founding of St Petersburg.

Central place in the architectural ensemble of the convent is occupied by the Cathedral of the Resurrection, built by Bartolomeo Francesco Rastrelli (1749–57) and decorated by Georg Friedrich von Veldten (from 1762). The foundations of the cathedral were laid on 30 October 1748.

The inner courtyard of the convent was surrounded along the perimeter by auxiliary cell blocks, refectory and widows’ home with four single-cupola churches in the corners (1748–64). The architect planned the convent buildings to form a closed, cruciform polygon.

At the entrance, the ensemble was supposed to be crowned with a 460-feet bell-tower. This project was not realised, although the original model of the planned ensemble and bell-tower can still be seen in the Museum of Scientific Research of the Academy of Arts.

Work was interrupted after the closure of the convent (second half of 1760s). Construction was only continued after the complex was awarded to the institutions of Dowager Empress Maria Fyodorovna (1828).

Vasily Stasov completed the decor and the church was consecrated as the cathedral of all educational establishments (1832–35). Vasily Stasov completed two auxiliary wings and designed the metal railings at the entrance (1832–35). Georg Friedrich von Veldten added a school for lower-middle-class girls (1765–75).

Russia’s first educational establishment for the daughters of noblemen, better known as the Smolny Institute, was opened and originally occupied part of the convent buildings (1764). Giacomo Quarenghi designed a new building, which became the third element in the complex specially created for the institute (1806–08).

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