Biography of The Flying Friar Giuseppe Desa Part 3

About the Flying Friar Giuseppe Desa, biography and history of the levitating Saint.


The Flying Friar

Joseph even lifted others while in ecstatic trances. During a festival in Copertino, while holding his father confessor's hands, Joseph was gripped by a rapture, and the two were lifted into the air. Another time, he cured a madman by grabbing him by the hair and levitating with him for 15 minutes. Witnesses to these manifestations frequently had to be revived with smelling salts.

During his ecstatic states Joseph was in a complete trance. His garments were never disarranged, his legs and feet were always covered by his robe, and his neck was covered by his cowl. However, once while levitating, his sandals fell from his feet, and they were returned later by a fellow friar. In addition to his amazing ability to levitate, Joseph was also clairvoyant. He could read the thoughts of people for whom he acted as a confessor--frequently reminding sinners of their confessional omissions. And he healed the sick, found lost articles, and could multiply food.

As Joseph's reputation grew, so did the number of visitors hoping to witness one of his miraculous flights. A crowd at Pietra Rubea tried to remove the tiles from the church roof in order to see what he would do during Mass. He was visited by many noted people. The most prestigious guest was Johann Friedrich, Duke of Brunswick, who was the patron of the great German philosopher Leibniz. In February, 1651, the duke went to Copertino. Unbeknownst to Joseph, the duke observed him from a private staircase in the church. In the middle of saying Mass, Joseph shrieked and rose into the air in a kneeling position, slowly moving backward and forward. The following day the skeptical duke again witnessed this incredible phenomenon and was so overawed he immediately renounced Lutheranism and became a Catholic.

In August, 1663, Joseph was stricken by a fever. The day before he died, he passed into an ecstatic state and floated from his deathbed to the steps of the chapel. He murmured, "The Ass is beginning to ascend the mountain." On the following day, Tuesday, Sept. 18, 1663, he died.

In 1758 a church was built in Copertino to honor its most famous son. The Church of St. Giuseppe da Copertino still stands in the Via Vittoria. Just over 100 years after Joseph's death, on July 16, 1767, it was formally announced that the Flying Friar had been made a saint.

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