The architect Bartolomeo Rastelli designed a number of majestic buildings in Russia. Among the buildings he designed is the Smolny Cathedral, the Grand palace in Peterhof and the Grand Catherine palace. Rastelli arrived in Russia with his father as a young boy. …
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The emperor Peter the Great had a weakness for western architecture. Hence he invited Rastelli’s father to Russia to construct the winter palace as well as the Tsarskoe Selo Palace. After his death, Rastelli took over as architect. The Smolny convent and cathedral is a land mark that Rastelli left unfinished due to insufficient funding before its completion.
The construction of the Smolny Convent and Cathedral took place between 1748 and 1764. This was during the reign of the empress Elizabeth Petrovna. There is rich history of Russia during this time. The Smolny cathedral original purpose was housing Elizabeth. The marriage between her mother and the emperor Peter the great remained unrecognized publicly. Hence her opponents used this as an excuse to deny her right to the throne. After her right to the thrown was taken and given to Anna Leopodovna, Elizabeth opted to become a nun. Hence the construction of the Smolny Convent began.
It was meant to house her during her monastery life. However, this was never meant to be. Anna Leopodovna favored Germans and allowed them to dominate the Russian politics and culture. Due to the dissatisfaction of the Russians (and especially the Russian royal guards) they decided to overthrow her in a coup. This provided a chance for Elizabeth to reign as empress. Therefore, Elizabeth threw away the idea to become a nun and decided to become an empress.
A lot happened during her reign which was in juxtaposition with the construction of the Smonly Cathedral. The reign of Elizabeth as empress started as the construction of the Smolny started. However, Elizabeth passed on before the completion of the Smolny Cathedral. The empress, Catherine thought that it was a waste of funds and hence stopped its construction. It was only completed between 1832 and 1835 by Vasily Stavos. The Cathedral is a combination of baroque architecture and neo-classical architecture. This is due to the disparity of time in which it was started and completed. Rastelli built in Baroque, Vasily used neo-classical architecture fashionable during his time. During the construction of the Smolny Cathedral, the empress Elizabeth encouraged the development of education and arts. Her plan was to dedicate part of the Smolny cathedral to girl’s education. Elizabeth developed enlightenment by introducing the first academy of sciences, St Petersburg, in 1747. It was during her reign that the first university in Russia was founded in 1757. In 1756 and 1758 the first public theater and the first fine arts academy were opened. Numerous schools were opened across Russia and Elizabeth ensured all children of all social classes’ accessed education. Since Anna had previously encouraged the use of German in studying, Elizabeth changed the system to French. This was especially because she had studied French. Elizabeth implemented pro-Russian policies. She encouraged the participation of Russians in politics and the economy. Elizabeth hated bloodshed. No blood was shed during the coup when she overthrew Anna. She promised that bloodshed would be minimal during her reign. Hence she never executed anyone during her time as empress. However, she led Russia through two wars. Elizabeth sent out 100 thousand army men against Prussia. This was as a result of joining forces with Austria as the rest of the world went to war. Elizabeth felt the Russian empire was threatened by the British and Russian alliance. Hence she joined forces with Austria to defeat Frederick the second. This achievement was celebrated because Frederick was considered an extremely skilled European warrior. Prussia failed to surrender completely in the next two years. However, Fredrick was ready to surrender in 1762.
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