The four ton, five story Giglio was exuberantly lifted by a team of brawny guys in Williamsburg once again this weekend, as part of the annual Italian-American festival outside Our Lady of Mount Carmel church on Havemeyer Street. The Giglio Feast honors San Paolino, the patron saint of a group of southern Italian immigrants who settled in Williamsburg in the 1880s. Now in its 115th year, the highlight of the festival is the spectacular feat of strength called the Giglio lift. Here's a taste:

Yes, that is a brass band on the Giglio platform, just to keep things interesting. Click through on Sai Mokhtari's fantastic photos from Sunday to get a sense of the scene.

According to Our Lady of Mount Carmel church, the tradition dates back to 1903 and "commemorates an extraordinary bit of southern Italian history, which culminated in the canonization of an erstwhile bishop of the small city of Nola." From the church's website:

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. Through the years, various trade guilds farmer (ortolano), butcher (beccaio), tailor (sarto), breadmaker (panettiere), blacksmith (fabbra), cobblers (calzolaio), deli merchants (salumiere), and wine makers (bettoliere) ) began to compete to produce the most sensational display of lilies. Over time, these displays became more flamboyant.

The festival continues through July 16th. Every day and night there are carnival rides, games, and a seemingly unlimited supply of grilled meat. If you missed Sunday's lift, you'll have another chance on the evening of July 11th, when they do a "Night Lift," and again on Sunday, July 15th, when the "old timers" hoist the giant tower.

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