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The castle of Kalamata

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The imposing Castle of Kalamata stands on a hill above the historic centre of the city, overlooking the area at a large radius, which was its initial purpose. It was built in the 13th century and is one of the numerous castles constructed in the Peloponnese by the Franks, who were seeking to establish their dominance over the widest possible range.

The castle was granted by William Champlitte to Geoffrey I Villehardouin, from the prominent Villehardouin family, who founded the principality of Achaia. Geoffrey expanded and fortified the castle, something that was deemed necessary, since over the centuries it was brutally attacked many times; by the Slavs in 1293, the Venetians in 1685 and the Turks in 1825. Today, there are still remnants of the fortification in various sites, a section of the defensive tower and an area covered by a small dome, which has been identified as the ruins of a church.

The Homeric Fares, the kingdom that Faris, son of Hermis and Danaides of Argos, founded, was once located on an imposing hill overlooking the historic centre of Kalamata. A small church dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary Kalomata was built on this exact location, on a rock, in the 6th century AD, getting its name from the fact that the icon of Virgin Mary that was devoted there had beautiful, dark brown eyes. This is reportedly how Kalamata got its name. Later on, during the Frankish domination, a castle was built on this location, connected with the famous Villehardouin family who founded the principality of Achaia. Over the centuries, the castle fell into many different hands, depending on who was dominating the region. Byzantines, Francs, Venetians and Ottomans all claimed it at times; not surprising, considering the castle’s strategically advantageous position for control of the entire area.

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The Castle is mentioned in the Chronicle of Morias, according to which, when the Franks came to the region in the beginning of the 13th century, was an insignificant fortress, serving as a monastery. William of Champlitte gave it to Geoffrey I Villehardouin who began a series of restoration works and extensions that were completed in the time of William II. The army of the Venetian Francesco Morosini inflicted severe damage to the castle in 1685, leading its occupants to proceed to its further fortification. In 1825 the Turks inflicted further damage, which they later repaired, however. Today, only part of the fortifications and the tower, which served as a refuge and dominated in the steep northeast corner of the castle, are preserved.

After the 1986 earthquake, the castle could no longer be visited, since many of its sections were deemed unsafe. Visitors can only walk around the perimeter of the inside of the castle, from where the view to the historic centre of Kalamata is breathtaking. A small theatre was constructed in 1950 at the southern end of the castle, which, during the summer months, hosts performances and various other cultural events.