St. Joseph of Copertino (1603-1663)

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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 occur-rences 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, 1998.

Gauch, Patricia Lee. The Little Man Who Flew. New York: Putnam, 1980.

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St. Joseph of Copertino (1603-1663)

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