Approximately in 1.500 before the birth of Christ, young prince Faris of ancient Argos founded his kingdom on the citadel, the rock where nowadays stands the castle of Kalamata, and a city that was named Farai after him.
King Dioklis ruled on the citadel of Farai around 1300-1250 b.C.; He had two twin sons, Krithonas and Orsilohos, and a daughter, Antikleia, whom he had married to Machaonas, son of Asclepios, the doctor who had been made a god. Dioklis’s children and son-in-law, doctor Machaon, were killed in Troy.
After the Trojan war, in the time of the Odyssey, Ulysses’s son, Telemachos, spent two nights in Dioklis’s palace. The first time was on his way to Sparti, accompanied by Nestor’s son Peisistratos who was carrying him in his carriage,and the second one while returning from Sparti.
On the citadel of Farai reigned also Dioklis’s grandchildren, Nikomachos and Gorgasos, children of his daughter Antikleia and Machaonas, doctors as well. As we are informed by Pafsanias the traveller, they had an asclepium at Farai.
In the 6th century a.C. Christians erected a church on the ruins of the ancient palace in the city of Farai; it is said that as an oblation the church was given a picture of the Holly Mother, who had beautiful black eyes: “kala” (=beautiful) “matia” (=eyes). She was worshipped as the Holly Mother “kalomata” and the whole city of Farai was named after her eyes.
On the Moreas chronicle, in the book of Kougkesta, the city is mentioned as «ΚALOMATA», but later on the name changed to “Kalamata”, which was easier to pronounce and has survived till nowadays; during the Othoman times the defenders of oratorial speech changed Kalamata to “KΑLAMAI” and only after long struggles from the press did the city regain its proper name “Kalamata”, by which it is known all over the world.
When in 1205 Kalamata and its castle were enslaved by Frank conquerors, the rock-citadel of ancient Farai was fortified with thick walls and it was made a castle-fortress. Especially the side of the Church was used as a block where walls of 2,5m. of thickness were made to construct a tower of many floors.
Above the church’s domes stood the first floor of the Franks’s tower.
In 1218 on the Frankish castle Gulielmos Vileardouinos was born. Kalamata, his place of birth, gave him the nickname «Kalamatas». He could speak greek and under his wise command that high civilisation was spread all over the territory. After his death the kingdom degenerated and passed to several rulers.
One night in 1292 six hundred Slaves of Giannitsa descended and, after climbing the castle’s walls using ladders, took over it. However they were betrayed by the Leader of the Byzantine Seigniory of Mistra and they were forced to hand the castle back to the Franks.
Later Nikolaos Atzaiolis became the master of Kalamata and its castle until 1430, when it passed on to Konstantinos Palaiologos and then fell into the hands of Turks.
The Franks ruled in Kalamata for 255 years. They came in 1205 and were expelled by the Turks in 1460.
Since 1460 Greece had been under the turkish yoke of slavery, with the exception of Mani that remained free.
In 1659 the Venetians tried to take over the Castle and Kalamata but without success.
In 1685 Morozinis returned with a fleet from Venice and Mani. They cast anchor to the east side of the beach of Kalamata and disembarked towards the spot Mpargiamaga; the Venetians’s troops climbed towards the place where nowadays Zoodochos Pigi is situated. A well armed body of 1.500 men arrived from Mani, they met the Venetians’s army of Commander in Chief Nteggelfelnt. On 14 September they fought the Turks and had a glorious victory. The beaten Turks blew the castle, since they were incapable of witholding it or the city of Kalamata against the Venetians and Maniates who had raised a canon at Stourles and were bombing it, and set off to Androussa and Koroni.
It was then that the army of Morozini and people of Mani climbed the castle of Kalamata, took over it and destroyed everything that had remained standing so that the Turks would not be able to take cover there again. Now the Venetians were the masters of the Frankish castle, they fortified it and built the second diazoma, putting at its gate a lion, the emblem of the Serene Republic of Venice.
The Venetians remained as masters till 1715, when the Turks reconquered it with Dalmat Ali in charge.
1821. A blessed day of spring. On 23 March the day of freedom stroke for the Greeks in Kalamata.
Against the revolutionary wind που was blowing around the castle the Turks decided to surrender.
The Voevoda of Kalamata Suleyman Arnavutoglu, fearful till that day, was caught as a prisoner along with 150 armed Turks.
This way, once more greek feet stepped the castle’s ground, only this time free.
In 1905 the Kalamata castle was visited by French Clemenceau, at the time a journalist and later France’s prime minister, the so-called Tiger of the First World War.
Clemenceau, gazing at Kalamata from the height of the citadel’s rock exclaimed: “Kalamata is such a beautiful city, there is no doubt that ancient Greek gods stayed here”. And when he pointed to the plain of Messini, he called it “Messinia’s golden carpet”.
In 1941-1944, the castle was under the authority and command of the Italians who were using it for their own purposes.
The Italians had carried out some works on the castle, had set up antiaircraft guns και pompoms.
For a good view to the city they had cut off the pine trees’s tops and they had damaged the church of the Holly Mother called “kalomata”, turning it into a storehouse.
When the Italians retired, the castle was given by the Germans to the battalion kopper’s narks for their entrenchment, but their defense did not last longer than two hours after the “Elas’s” attack.
The castle nowadays
Nowadays, the castle is a scenery where anybody can enjoy calmness in a piny landscape and a breath-taking panoramic view of the historical centre of Kalamata. Due to extreme danger, the door leading to the castle’s center is locked and visitors can only move perimetrically in the castle area.
Furthermore, in the summer, the amphitheatre made of cement on the top of the castle is a place where many cultural events are organised by the municipality of Kalamata, with the lit historical centre as the background.
Source: Old Kalamata, Giannis P. Tavoulareas