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In Focus
'Dancing' For Saints
Chris Sheridan
The lifters’ faces show the concerted effort it takes to dance with the handmade giglio, which weighs several tons.

On the streets of Our Lady of Mount Carmel parish in the Belmont section of the Bronx, the community and parish were blessed to participate in an Italian tradition that dates to the fifth century—the dancing of the giglio.

Weighing several tons and standing 60-feet tall, the giglio is a handmade wooden structure that requires the strength of more than 100 men to lift; the giglio appears to be dancing as the men spin it around upon their shoulders.

On June 15, Our Lady of Mount Carmel parish marked the feast of St. Anthony with the dancing giglio. The structure was made just days before, by hand, in the parking lot of the church. Paintings on the giglio featured Our Lady of Mount Carmel, St. Anthony, St. Padre Pio, and St. Paulinus of Nola. This was the second year the parish danced the giglio.

The giglio is the centerpiece of traditional processions in Italian neighborhoods throughout the world.

“The giglio started after the death of St. Paulinus of Nola in the fifth century in Italy,” said Father Eric Rapaglia, pastor of Our Lady of Mount Carmel.

St. Paulinus was bishop of Nola. Legend says he exchanged his life for one of the boys in his town who were taken as slaves by pirates. He was returned along with his townspeople when word of his action reached the ears of a Turkish sultan who was so taken with the story that he negotiated with the pirates for their freedom. The townspeople greeted St. Paulinus with lilies when he came back. Giglio is the Italian word for lily.


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