POINTS OF INTEREST
Someone mentioning the Smolny may be referring to either the beautiful baroque church and convent or the classically designed institute that went down in history as the Bolshevik headquarters in the Revolution of 1917. The two architectural complexes are right next door to each other, on the Neva's left bank. Construction of the Smolny convent and cathedral began under Elizabeth I and continued during the reign of Catherine the Great, who established a school for the daughters of the nobility within its walls. The centerpiece of the convent is the magnificent five-domed Cathedral of the Resurrection, which was designed by Bartolomeo Rastrelli and which is, some historians say, his greatest creation. At first glance, the highly ornate blue-and-white cathedral seems to have leaped off the pages of a fairy tale. Its five white onion domes, crowned with gilded globes supporting crosses of gold, convey a sense of magic and power. Begun by Rastrelli in 1748, the cathedral was not completed until the 1830s, by the architect Vasily Stasov. Few traces of the original interior have survived. It's currently used for concerts, notably of Russian sacred music, and rather insignificant exhibits.The cathedral tower offers the highest viewing point in the city.