Children's Giglio, 1999

Courtesy of the Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church, Williamsburg, Brooklyn

Giglio

The giglio is a tapering, multi-tiered tower constructed of brightly painted papier-mâché attached to a lattice frame. Each July, approximately 125 able-bodied men lift and carry the giglio through the streets of Williamsburg, Brooklyn in one of the most spectacular events of its kind held in New York City.

Since the 1960s, community adults have built a scaled-down version of the giglio in order to provide their children with a participatory role in the annual religious feast.

The Brooklyn feast dramatizes the safe return from slavery of the fifth century bishop, Saint Paulinus of Nola (a town outside Naples), and the jubilant welcome home by townspeople waving lilies. Giglio means lily in Italian. This ceremonial spire is derived from the gigantic structures paraded in civic and religious pageants of Europe during the Renaissance and the Counter Reformation.

Immigrants from Nola who settled in Williamsburg introduced the feast to America in 1903. Similar feasts were subsequently held in Harlem, Astoria, Queens, New Jersey, and Long Island.