Kalamata takes its name from the monastery of Our Lady of Kalamata, a small Byzantine church at the top of the city near the tourist pavilion and has a fine view over the Gulf of Messinia, the plain and nearby Mt. Taygetos.
Kalamata is the largest city of the Peloponnese, with a population of around 50,000. It is situated on the Messinian Gulf, extending 4km back from the sea and into the hills. It is a very metropolitan city and an attractive one (according to some; other disagree) as well as the main commercial center of the Peloponnese.
Twenty years have now passed since the devasting earthquake of early September 1986, which leveled the city and left 12,000 homeless (around half of the population). Perhaps the only consolation in this disaster was the small number of deaths: 20 people, attributable to the fact that the earthquake hit in the early evening when people were mostly outside (September being a hot month in Greece, and early evening the traditional time for a stroll or sitting on the veranda with a coffee after a nap). The ugly truth behind this tragedy was that the buildings (mostly built during the 1960s) had not been made earthquake proof as required by law, and that the contractors profited from the disaster. Considering the fact that the city is built over several subterranean streams, these unpunished crimes seem all the more shocking.