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Smolny Cathedral

Sacred Buildings: Rococo Style Smolny Cathedral in St. Petersburg, Russia


Italian architect Rastrelli lavished Smolny Cathedral with Rococo details. The cathedral was contructed between 1748 and 1764.
Russian Rococo

Smolny Cathedral

Photo: ArtToday.com
European ideas reigned during the time of Peter the Great. His namesake city, St. Petersburg, was modeled after European ideas, and his successors continued the tradition by bringing architects from Europe to design palaces, cathedrals and other important buildings.

Designed by the famous Italian architect, Rastrelli, Smolny Cathedral celebrates the Rococo style. Rococo is a French Baroque fashion known for its light, white ornamentation and complex arrangements of curving forms. The blue-and-white Smolny Cathedral is like a confectioner's cake with arches, pediments and columns. Only the onion-dome caps hint at Russian tradition.

The cathedral was to be the centerpiece of a convent designed for Empress Elisabeth, daughter of Peter the Great. Elisabeth had planned to become a nun, but she abandoned the idea once she was given a chance to rule. At the end of her reign, funding for the convent ran out. Construction stopped in 1764 and the bell-tower the architect planned was never built.

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