2008 Giglio Parade in Brooklyn Part 1

A co-worker had alerted me to what he said was a don’t-miss event: the Giglio Parade of the Our Lady at Mt. Carmel Church in Brooklyn (actually, the Williamsburg part of Brooklyn). The way he described it was that it was a tight-knit Italian neighborhood that got together and held a fair/festival at which some of the locals would carry a huge shrine down the street in a show of celebration. As part of that shrine, there would be a band on it.

Just like you may have just done, it brought to my mind’s eye almost a scene out of The Godfather. Not that they did it in that movie, but just that sort of street festival.

So, I did my research and found that the festival takes a couple of weeks, but the Sunday before the end seemed to have everything I wanted to see. So, I took off holding a couple of ideas in my head: it’s small, it’s very crowded, and it happens at 1pm.

Two out of of three ain’t bad. I got there nice and early.

And the place was nearly empty. At least at first. I got there right around noon and they still seemed to be setting up. It gave me a chance to see everything. Several times. Finally, it did start to fill up a bit.

One thing I hadn’t understood from my friend’s description nor from the website: there are two items carried: a boat and a shrine (each are called “giglio” which translates as “lillies”). They start at opposite ends of the street and each is carried about a block and a half by fifty or sixty men. The first giglio I saw was the boat.

As I understand the celebration; the Italian town of Nola was attacked by pirates something like 1600 years ago. A local bishop named Paul escaped with some of the children, but upon returning to the town he discovered that many had been carried away by the pirates. He offered himself as a hostage for their release. The offer was accepted and he was taken away to North Africa. There, another leader was taken by the offer and set him free. His return was a cause of great celebration

The second giglio is just really high and thin. I think it’s 65 feet up. It’s made of wood and, although it looks like a part of the landscape in the above and in the next photo; it is designed to be carried.

As the next photo shows, at the bottom are metal girders wrapped in some foam rubber to protect the shoulders of the carriers.

I couldn’t resist taking the next shot, just for its dramatic effect. It makes it look tall. Well, it is tall!

Midway is the “Shrine of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel.” Once again, I don’t know the link between the “our Lady” and the giglio and Bishop Paul (later declared a saint). The article I read was rather murky on the linkage between them and noted it was controversial.

I’m a terrible person. As I stood in the midst of faithful and patriotic Italian-Americans, I kept thinking of Mussolini and the one nice thing people used to say about him: that at least he kept the trains on time. I was thinking of that because time kept passing. Very slowly. It was a clear hot day and the crowds were growing and there was zero movement on the part of the people to start the lift. I was hot and tired and hadn’t sat in hours.

Well, there had been some movement. Just after 1pm, the local bishop had left the Shrine in a procession. After he left…nothing. Not for another hour!

The crowd just kept growing and growing. They knew it would be delayed, I guess. Well, actually, I heard some of the talking about how it was always late. Just before 2pm, we started seeing some activity and the lifters and musicians got into position. And just after 2pm, the boat was lifted out onto the street and rotated a full turn.

Okay, and the great thing? The lifters were having some fun and trying to shake up the boat occupants. It’s a wonder none of them became publicly seasick. They swayed, they bounced, they threw confetti.

Both of the giglios had a band on the dais of the lift. It held eight or ten of them. And they got into it. Some was standard Italian-style music. I think it was some of their Church music, but I just don’t know. Both of the giglios played the National Anthem (of the US) at different times. Each of them held a singer and each of those belted out some standard songs.

I haven’t talked about the second giglio much in this post. Other than its height, it performed in much the same manner as the boat giglio. The lifters spun it about on its axis a couple of times. The two bands were in competition with one another. The lifters both swayed the giglios a bit, but I’m pretty sure the boat was shaken a whole lot more than the saint giglio. Well, that makes sense.

The both were headed in my direction. The saint giglio got to the destination first; but that’s because there was an incident (actually a fight) right next to me involving the boat giglio lift crew.

That was something. Enough that I’ll wait to post on it tomorrow.

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Explore posts in the same categories: Brooklyn, Events, Parades, Wanderings

One Comment on “2008 Giglio Parade in Brooklyn Part 1”


  1. […] Famous Ankles Documenting my wanderings around and about NYC « 2008 Giglio Parade in Brooklyn Part 1 […]


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