Longstanding Italian Feast Celebrated in Williamsburg

The Giglio (Photo by Corazon Aguirre via Home Reporter)

The Giglio (Photo by Corazon Aguirre via Home Reporter)

It may not be as large as the San Gennaro festival in Little Italy, but the Giglio Feast in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, predates the Manhattan event by 23 years – and includes, as Home Reporter’s Renee Saff writes, “the lifting of an 80-foot-tall, four-ton statue by 125 well-trained men.” The 12-day-long celebration of Italian culture, which began on July 8, honors the patron San Paolino of Nola (also known as St. Paulinus).

One of the festival’s most unusual traditions is the lifting of the 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 imprisoned by the Turks. After being released by the Turks, St. Paulinus returned to Nola on a boat. He was greeted with lilies by all of the people who ran to the shore for his arrival. The tower also holds an Italian brass band, a singer and the parish priest.

Tanay Warerkar has further details in The Greenpoint Gazette:

That moment is replicated during the Feast on both Sundays and Wednesday evening by a group of over a hundred men carrying a life-sized wooden boat adorned with a statue of St. Paulinus, a parishioner dressed as the icon and a marching band of its own. When the tower and boat meet, the result is a thrilling duet of Italian standards performed by the respective bands. Meanwhile parishioners enact the role of the Italians and the Turkish as the whole group sways the boat from side to side as it arrives back in Nola.

Italian immigrants from the region of Nola held the inaugural feast in 1903. The official website has more on the history of the “transplanted feast.”

Saff, who refers to the celebration as the Feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel and St. Paulinus of Nola, also describes other events and entertainment at the festival. Read about them, and view numerous photos, at Home Reporter. And at The Greenpoint Gazette.

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