Each year, the Italian-American community of Williamsburg re-enacts a fourth-century pageant which commemorates the return of the Bishop of Nola, San Paolino (Paulinus), from captivity. He returned to Italy in a Moorish galleon ship, and once he returned, the people of Nola held lilies in their hands as a sign of homage to San Paolino.
Nowadays, the event is commemorated with a weeklong festival at the Shrine Church of Our Lady of Mount Carmel. A hundred and fifty men carry a 72-foot-high tower called the Giglio (meaning lily, symbolizing the lily of San Paolino) that weighs four tons and supports a band playing traditional Italian folk music. Other crews carry a replica of the boat that carried San Paolino.
The tower and the boat are both carried through the streets of Williamsburg, and the highlight of the festival happens when they come together, an event known as the “Dancing of the Giglio and Boat.”
Other events of the festival include a Children’s Giglio, an Old-Timer’s Giglio Sunday, a “Brooklyn’s Best” meatball contest, an opening-night Mass and more.
This year’s Giglio events started on Wednesday, July 10 and will culminate on Tuesday, July 16, the actual Feast Day of Our Lady of Mount Carmel.