Smolny Convent (Voskresensky) is a Russian Orthodox convent built to house Elizabeth, the daughter of Peter the Great. After she was disallowed succession to the throne, she opted to become a nun. However her Imperial predecessor, Ivan VI was overthrown during a coup d'état (carried out by the royal guards in 1741). Elizabeth then decided against entering monastic life and accepted the offer of the Russian throne and work on the convent continued with her royal patronage.
The convent's main church, a blue-and-white building, is considered to be one of the architectural masterpieces of the Italian architect Francesco Bartolomeo Rastrelli, who also redesigned the Winter Palace, and created the Grand Catherine Palace (Yekaterininsky) in Tsarskoye Selo, the Grand Palace in Peterhof and many other major St. Petersburg landmarks. The Cathedral is the centerpiece of the convent, built by Rastrelli between 1748 and 1764. The projected bell-tower was to become the tallest building in St. Petersburg and, at the time, all of Russia. Elizabeth's death in 1762 prevented Rastrelli from completing this grand design.
When Catherine II assumed the throne, it was found that the new Empress strongly disapproved of the baroque style, and funding that had supported the construction of the convent rapidly ran out. Rastrelli was unable to build the huge bell-tower he had planned and unable to finish the interior of the cathedral. The building was only finished in 1835 by Vasily Stasov with the addition of a neo-classical interior to suit the changed architectural tastes at the time. The Cathedral was consecrated on 22 July 1835; its main altar was dedicated to the Resurrection and the two side altars were dedicated to St. Mary Magdalene and Righteous Elizabeth. The church was closed by the Soviet authorities in 1923. It was looted and allowed to decay until 1982, when it became a Concert Hall.
Today, Smolny Cathedral is used primarily as a concert hall and the surrounding convent buildings house various offices and government institutions. In addition, the faculties of sociology, political science and international relations of the Saint Petersburg State University are located in some of the buildings surrounding the cathedral.References:
German crusaders known as the Livonian Brothers of the Sword began construction of the Cēsis castle (Wenden) near the hill fort in 1209. When the castle was enlarged and fortified, it served as the residence for the Order's Master from 1237 till 1561, with periodic interruptions. Its ruins are some of the most majestic castle ruins in the Baltic states. Once the most important castle of the Livonian Order, it was the official residence for the masters of the order.
In 1577, during the Livonian War, the garrison destroyed the castle to prevent it from falling into the control of Ivan the Terrible, who was decisively defeated in the Battle of Wenden (1578).
In 1598 it was incorporated into the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth and Wenden Voivodship was created here. In 1620 Wenden was conquered by Sweden. It was rebuilt afterwards, but was destroyed again in 1703 during the Great Northern War by the Russian army and left in a ruined state. Already from the end of the 16th century, the premises of the Order's castle were adjusted to the requirements of the Cēsis Castle estate. When in 1777 the Cēsis Castle estate was obtained by Count Carl Sievers, he had his new residence house built on the site of the eastern block of the castle, joining its end wall with the fortification tower.
Since 1949, the Cēsis History Museum has been located in this New Castle of the Cēsis Castle estate. The front yard of the New Castle is enclosed by a granary and a stable-coach house, which now houses the Exhibition Hall of the Museum. Beside the granary there is the oldest brewery in Latvia, Cēsu alus darītava, which was built in 1878 during the later Count Sievers' time, but its origins date back to the period of the Livonian Order. Further on, the Cēsis Castle park is situated, which was laid out in 1812. The park has the romantic characteristic of that time, with its winding footpaths, exotic plants, and the waters of the pond reflecting the castle's ruins. Nowadays also one of the towers is open for tourists.