Kalavryta (Greek: Καλάβρυτα) is a town and a municipality in the mountainous east-central part of the regional unit of Achaea, Greece. The town is located on the right bank of the river Vouraikos, 24 kilometres south of Aigio, 40 km southeast of Patras and 62 km northwest of Tripoli. Notable mountains in the municipality are Mount Erymanthos in the west and Aroania or Chelmos in the southeast. Kalavryta is the southern terminus of the Diakopto-Kalavryta rack railway, built by Italian engineers between 1885 and 1895.
Kalavryta is built near the ancient city of Cynaetha. During the late Middle Ages, the town was the centre of the Barony of Kalavryta within the Frankish Principality of Achaea, until it was reconquered by the Byzantines in the 1270s. After that it remained under Byzantine control until the fall of the Despotate of the Morea to the Ottoman Turks in 1460. With the exception of a 30-year interlude of Venetian control, the town remained under Turkish rule until the outbreak of the Greek War of Independence in 1821, in whose early stages Kalavryta figures prominently: it was here that on 21 March 1821 the flag of the revolt was raised at the monastery of Agia Lavra by bishop Germanos III of Old Patras.
At the end of 1943, near Kalavryta, 81 German soldiers, led by Hauptmann Johannes Schober, were captured by Greek partisans. Four Germans were killed on the spot. Three were taken to hospital at Kalavryta but were later shot by the furious partisans. The rest were initially treated as prisoners of war until most were shot dead and some plunged over the cliff near Mazi from the force of the shots. Two German prisoners survived the execution and raised the alarm on the following day 8 December 1943.
On 13 December 1943, in retribution for the killing of the captured German soldiers, the Massacre of Kalavryta took place. German troops ordered all male residents of Kalavryta, aged 14 years and up, to gather in a field just outside the village. Some 1 300 women and girls were locked in a school which was then set on fire while the men were looking on from a hill outside the village. Fortunately for the women, an Austrian soldier unlocked the door of the building and the women and girls managed to escape. The Germans shot the soldier who had set them free. Then 696 boys and men were machine-gunned. Only 13 survived. After that, they burnt down the town before they left and the next day they burnt down the monastery of Agia Lavra, the birthplace of the Greek War of Independence.
After the war, the federal government of Germany offered gestures of atonement in the form of free school books for the high school, scholarships for orphans of the massacre and the building of a retirement home. However, German commanders, including Major Ebersberger who carried out the destruction of Kalavryta and Hauptmann Dohnert who led the firing party, were never brought to justice for their crimes.
The Kalavryta region also became the site of fighting during the Greek Civil War. On 11 April 1948, Kalavryta was seized by the Democratic Army of Greece (DSE) after the former overpowered the town’s garrison. DSE released 17 leftists held in the local gendarmerie building, while also emptying the national guard and United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration warehouses; taking 400 million drachmas and large quantities of food and military equipment in the process.
Greek Revolution 1821
The Greek War of Independence, also known as the Greek Revolution (Greek: Ελληνική Επανάσταση, Elliniki Epanastasi), was a successful war of independence waged by Greek revolutionaries against the Ottoman Empire between 1821 and 1830.
Even several decades before the fall of Constantinople to the Ottoman Empire in 1453, most of Greece had come under Ottoman rule. During this time, there were several revolt attempts by Greeks to gain independence from Ottoman control. In 1814, a secret organization called the Filiki Eteria was founded with the aim of liberating Greece. The Filiki Eteria planned to launch revolts in the Peloponnese, the Danubian Principalities, and in Constantinople and its surrounding areas.
By late 1821, the insurrection had been planned for 25 March 1821, on the Feast of the Annunciation for the Orthodox Christians. However, as the plans of Filiki Eteria had been discovered by the Ottoman authorities, the revolutionary action started earlier. The first of these revolts began on 6 March/21 February 1821 in the Danubian Principalities, but it was soon put down by the Ottomans.
The events in the north urged the Greeks in the Peloponnese into action and on 17 March 1821, the Maniots declared war on the Ottomans. This declaration was the start of a spring of revolutionary actions from other controlled states against the Ottoman Empire. On 25 March the revolution was officially declared and by the end of the month, the Peloponnese was in open revolt against the Turks. By October 1821, the Greeks under Theodoros Kolokotronis had captured Tripolitsa.
The Peloponnesian revolt was quickly followed by revolts in Crete, Macedonia, and Central Greece, which would soon be suppressed. Meanwhile, the makeshift Greek navy was achieving success against the Ottoman navy in the Aegean Sea and prevented Ottoman reinforcements from arriving by sea.
Tensions soon developed among different Greek factions, leading to two consecutive civil wars. In the meantime, the Ottoman Sultan negotiated with Mehmet Ali of Egypt, who agreed to send his son Ibrahim Pasha to Greece with an army to suppress the revolt in return for territorial gain. Ibrahim landed in the Peloponnese in February 1825 and had immediate success: by the end of 1825, most of the Peloponnese was under Egyptian control, and the city of Missolonghi fell in April 1826 after a year-long siege by the Turks. Although Ibrahim was defeated in Mani, he had succeeded in suppressing most of the revolt in the Peloponnese, and Athens had been retaken. The Greek Revolution is celebrated by the modern Greek state as a national day on 25 March.