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.