Smolny Monastery was built near the meander of the Neva, at the place of its confluence with the Okhta (the Nienschanz fortress was located there). In the seventeenth century the place was far rather from the city, and the empress Elizabeth wanted to retire there at the evening of her life with 120 nuns who were the daughters of the nobility. She chose the place as there was the Smolny Palace (the palace didn’t survive) where Elizabeth spent her young years.
Near the Okhta the backyards were also located where the tar was produced for the Admiralty`s shipyards, and so they called the place Smolnoye. The same was also given to the monastery and then the school for noble maidens.
Smolny Cathedral was the central building of the monastery. As the entire monastery, the cathedral was built by the court architect Francesco Rastrelli. He also worked on all the most famous imperial palaces of Petersburg: Winter Palace, Catherine Palace in Tsarskoye Selo and Peterhof. Rastrelli was planning to build the giant sixties gateway bell-tower of 140 me-ters high, but the plans weren’t to come true.
The cathedral was surrounded by the dwellings for the «nuns from the noble families». Four churches were built at the corners of a square building surrounding the Smolny Cathedral. It must be admitted that Rastrelli designed the cathedral and dwellings in the magnificent palatial style (very similar to that of Winter Palace). Elizabeth had it arranged so that each nun had «separate rooms, including servant`s rooms, pantry and kitchen».
Empress Catherine II removed Rastrelli from the works on the construction of the monastery and it was finished by the architect Felten. Later, the monastery was abolished and its buildings were given to the school for noble maidens. As the buildings weren’t suited for the pur-pose, almost at once there arose the question about the construction of a new building, and in 1806-1808 the architect Quarenghi designed the building of the Smolny Institute in the immediate vicinity of Smolny Monastery.
Smolny School for Noble Maidens was the first construction in Petersburg built as educational establishment. The layout of classrooms developed by the architect of the building is now used when designing modern schools.
After 1917 the building accommodated the Council of People`s Commissioners headed by V. Lenin. From there he controlled the Great October Revolution. Today the Smolny Institute is the seat of Petersburg Governor Administration. The dwellings of the Smolny Monastery are now housing the International Relations Institute, and Smolny Cathedral – a concert hall. By the way, the cathedral with capacity of 6 000 people still wasn’t returned to the Church.