A glorious Brooklyn summertime tradition continued on Sunday with the annual lifting of the four ton, five story Giglio tower outside Our Lady of Mount Carmel church on Havemeyer Street in Williamsburg. The Giglio, a tower bearing the statue of Saint Paolino, is paraded through the streets every year as part of a 12-day street festival and feast celebrating a 5th century bishop from Nola (and Italian heritage in general). It's all pretty incredible:

According to Our Lady of Mount Carmel church, the celebration dates back to 1903:

This feast, which has been taking place in Brooklyn for over 100 years, commemorates an extraordinary bit of southern Italian history, which culminated in the canonization of an erstwhile bishop of the small city of Nola. Not even Catholic until his thirty-seventh year, Paulinus was destined to become a renowned religious hero of that region. Though he was to serve as Bishop of Nola from 409 AD to 431 AD, it was an alleged episode that took place shortly after his elevation to bishop, for which the Nolani holds him in such high regard.

The story, which is passed on through the generations on both sides of the Atlantic, is that around 410 AD, North African pirates overran the town of Nola. In the chaos, Bishop Paolino was able to flee into the countryside with some of the children. Upon his return, Paolino learned, from a sobbing widow that many of the young men, her son included, had been abducted into slavery. Moved to compassion, Paolino offered himself in exchange for the boy and was ferried off, a prisoner of the brigands. While in North Africa, word of the courage and self-sacrifice of Paolino spread and became known to a certain Turkish sultan. Taken with the tale of altruism, the sultan intervened, negotiating for the freedom of this holy man. Through the sultan 's efforts, Paolino and his paesani, were freed.

Overjoyed by his safe return, the entire town greeted him carrying lilies, symbolic of love and purity. That joyous homecoming jubilee is considered the very first observance of what would develop into an annual sacred event.

The festival continues through July 16th. Every day and night there are pony rides, games, carnival rides, tchotchkes for sale (I scored some cool fridge magnets last year FYI), and a seemingly unlimited supply of grilled meat. If you missed Sunday's festivities, there will be one more Giglio lift on Saturday, the 15th, when the "old timers" hoist the tower.

275 North 8th Street at Havemeyer Street, Williamsburg, Brooklyn // Website