Michael Ledger-Lomas

Leap of faith: the miraculous phenomenon of levitating saints

St Joseph of Cupertino liked to nest in the tops of trees, and Allied pilots were dissuaded by the airborne Padre Pio from dropping bombs near his monastery in Apulia

St Joseph of Cupertino would drift into the rafters of churches like a lost birthday balloon. Painting by Ludovico Mazzanti [Alamy]

The ‘ordinary academic mind’, William James wrote, struggles to recognise things which ‘present themselves as wild facts with no stall or pigeonhole’. The Yale professor Carlos Eire has a passion for them. His erudite, wilfully eccentric study of baroque Catholicism glories in the supernatural powers of holy persons. He showcases two kinds of miracles they performed: levitation and bilocation, the ability to be in two places at once.

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