By Raanan Geberer
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
One of the most spectacular, unusual traditional Italian feasts is taking place through Monday in Williamsburg.
The Feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel and St. Paulinus of Nola features the lifting of an 80-foot-tall, three-ton statue known as the Giglio, which means “lily” in Italian. The statue is topped by a representation of St. Paulinus, an early Christian martyr who was taken prisoner by the Turks; when he was finally released, St. Paulinus returned to Nola in a boat and the people all ran to shore to greet him with lilies.
Weekdays from 5 p.m. to 11 p.m., and weekends from noon to 11 p.m., the streets around Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Church, 275 North 8th St., are alive with food, drink, rides and entertainment.
The Giglio, which also holds an Italian brass band, a singer and the parish priest, is carried by 130 well-trained men headed by a capo. At the same time, another crew of 120 men carry a life-size boat carrying a statue of St. Paulinus and actors portraying the Turks and the pirates. The crews lift their vessels up and down while parading through the streets.
While the most celebrated lifting of the Giglio took place last Sunday, there will be a children’s Giglio lift (with a smaller Giglio) on Friday, July 13, around 7 p.m. Then, on Sunday, July 15, another lifting of the actual Giglio will take place at 1 p.m. as part of Old Timers Day, which honors former capos.
The final day of the feast, Monday, July 16, will feature Masses throughout the day and evening at the church. In a nod to the neighborhood’s present-day multicultural reality, Masses will be served not only in English and Italian, but also in Polish, Haitian Creole and Spanish. A closing celebration on the church steps, with the drawing of raffles, will take place at 10 p.m.
The feast was captured in the 2001 documentary, “Heaven Touches Brooklyn in July,” by Bensonhurst filmmaker Tony de Nonno, with narration by John Turturro (“Barton Fink”) and Michael Badalucco (“The Practice”).
All of the Eagle's Feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel photos — along with those from hundreds of other events — can be viewed (and purchased) at the new BrooklynPhotoArchive.com website.