This website use cookies and similar technologies to improve the site and to provide customised content and advertising. By using this site, you agree to this use. To learn more, including how to change your cookie settings, please view our Cookie Policy
Pocketmags Digital Magazines
CA
Pocketmags Digital Magazines
   You are currently viewing the Canada version of the site.
Would you like to switch to your local site?
Digital Subscriptions > Skeptical Inquirer > July/August 2018 > Secrets of ‘The Flying Friar’: Did St. Joseph of Copertino Really Levitate?

Secrets of ‘The Flying Friar’: Did St. Joseph of Copertino Really Levitate?

[ INVESTIGATIVE FILES JOE NICKELL

Joe Nickell, PhD, is CSI’s senior research fellow. He has worked professionally as both a stage magician and a private investigator, and he is author of such books as Looking for a Miracle and The Science of Miracles.

Supported by records citing eye witness testimony, St. Joseph of Copertino was a seventeenth-century religious marvel who laid claim to the power of levitation. Reportedly, as stated by the title of a new book by Michael Grosso (2016), he was The Man Who Could Fly. Although I had addressed both the topic of levitation and Joseph himself briefly in a book (Nickell 1993, 211–216) as well as in a BBC television documentary (“Secrets” 1999), I determined to look more deeply into the strange life of “the flying friar.”

Future Saint

Born Joseph Desa in the Italian village of Copertino (or in English Cupertino), he lived his sixty years (1603–1663) during a superstitious period that included the European witch obsession. Joseph—whose father had fled to avoid debtor’s prison and whose mother gave birth to him in a shed—was thought stupid. As a boy he loitered at churches and—though always apologizing for fits of reverie— was taken in at a Capuchin monastery. There he prayed on his knees so often and so long (a habit that would later prove useful in his “levitations”) that his knees became infected. When his trying to operate on them himself led to a lengthy convalescence, he was thought worthless and was dismissed.

St. Joseph of Copertino is lifted in flight at the site of the Basilica of Loreto, by Ludovico Mazzanti
READ MORE
Purchase options below
Find the complete article and many more in this issue of Skeptical Inquirer - July/August 2018
If you own the issue, Login to read the full article now.
Single Issue - July/August 2018
$3.99
Or 399 points
Annual Digital Subscription
Only $ 4.00 per issue
$23.99
Or 2399 points

View Issues

About Skeptical Inquirer

Wildlife Apocalypse: How Myths and Superstitions Are Driving Animal Extinctions SkepticismReloaded Cell Phones, Cancer, and Chance Lotus Birth Fad