Joseph of Copertino

1603-1663. Franciscan ascetic. The son of a poor carpenter in a small town of SE Italy, Joseph in his youth suffered much ill health aggravated by his asceticism. He entered the Franciscan Order, became a priest in 1628, and thereafter lived a life of extreme austerity, punctuated by many loathsome self-tortures. In his devotions he frequently swooned in ecstasy and rose in the air. His superiors, doubtless moved by notoriety or envy, were determined to end this “miracle.” He was made to attend chapel alone, and even charged before the Inquistion; but in paying homage to Urban VIII by kissing the papal feet, Joseph astonished Urban by forthwith levitating. There are numerous eyewitness accounts of this achievement, including that of the duke of Brunswick (d.1679), patron of the German philosopher Leibnitz. The duke, though a Lutheran, was so impressed by the “miracle” (which he saw twice) that he forthwith became a Roman Catholic. Levitation seems now to be unknown or extremely rare: the last reasonably well authenticated cases were connected with the medium D.D. Home (1833-86).