Legend has it that the Feast began in the fifth century when the bishop Paolino, who had placed himself in slavery to release a local widow's son, returned by boat from Africa. Eight tradesmen representing the town greeted him by strewing flowers at his feet. Currently the eight "gigli" (lilies) and the "Barca" (boat) recall this welcome home celebration for San Paolino, patron saint of Nola.
The "gigli" are wooden obelisks resembling lilies and ornated by paper-mâché artists. They are nearly 25 meters high.
It takes 120 men named "cullatori" (lullers) to carry each "giglio" with a band playing on it at the same time that the "cullatori" lulls the obelisk through the streets and the Piazza Duomo. Each group of "cullatori" is called "paranza".
Each "giglio" takes its name from the ancient guilds of arts and works.
The men who carry the "gigli" every year have calluses on their backs from bearing the weight of the obelisks. The calluses are shown with pride since it is a great honor to carry a "giglio".
“If the shoulder can't take the weight, the heart takes over”. The Feast of the Lilies boasts official recognition of UNESCO as an intangible heritage of humanity.