St. Joseph of Copertino (1603–1663)
St. Joseph of Copertino, a seventeenth-century Roman
Catholic monk, is still remembered for his reported levitations,
many of which were seen by multiple witnesses. He was
born Joseph Dasa on June 17, 1603, in Copertino in Northern
Italy into a poor family and spent his youthful years preparing
himself for the monastic life. His neighbors were aware of his
psychic abilities, though they did not blossom until after he
joined the Franciscans and was ordained in 1628.
Various incidents of levitation began to occur without planning
or control by Fr. Joseph, and no overall pattern emerged.
It was noted that many of his levitations occurred as he was in
prayer or engaged in veneration of the Virgin Mary. On one
occasion he levitated in front of Pope Urban VIII who saw him
hover in the air for several minutes. The pope was merely one
among many notables of the era who testified to seeing Joseph
in the air. The Duke of Brunswich was even taken into the air
with Joseph. While the church built much of its case for being
the prime contact point with God from the miraculous occurrences
that happen among its members, it was somewhat embarrassed
by Joseph’s paranormal life. They kept him from the
public as much as possible and at one point had him examined
by the Inquisition. However, in his later years, he won the support
of Pope Urban VIII.
The levitations of Joseph remain baffling and inexplicable.
They are difficult to dismiss, having been so thoroughly documented
from so many sources. They were not promoted, and
the very people who tried to keep Joseph from becoming a
public spectacle were among those who left the best records of
his activity. They also remain an anomaly, his levitations finding
few repetitions in other lives. Several medieval monks were
reported to have levitated, including St. Philip of Neri and
Francis Loyola, but their examples never approached the quality
or quantity of Joseph’s. The most famous modern levitator
was Spiritualist medium Daniel Dunglas Home (1833–1886),
who also had several spectacular levitations witnessed by a
number of people.
Joseph died in 1663. It would only be some years later when
the church reversed its opinion of him and canonized him. His
levitations were an essential part of their considerations leading
to his beatification. The case against him in the beatification
process was conducted by Prosper Labertini, who later as
Pope Benedict XIV read the beatification decree. Joseph was
canonized in 1767. His feast day was set as September 18.
Chambers, Paul. Paranormal People. London Blandford,
Gauch, Patricia Lee. The Little Man Who Flew. New York
Putnam, 1980.