When the Saints Go Arting In: Joseph of Cupertino

I’m sure a lot of the time when Catholic people are deciding which saints are the patron saints of what, there’s probably a bit of debate and voting and whatnot. But I reckon when it came to picking the patron saint of aviation and astronauts, absolutely no time at all was spent dithering. Boom. Joseph of Cupertino. No contest.

Why? Because Joseph spent an unbelievable amount of his time on Earth hovering just above Earth. Some saints perform miracles by healing sick people or surviving injuries, but Joseph mostly just floated around.

There’s a lot of talk about whether or not Joseph of Cupertino actually was able to levitate, given that every single person in history who has claimed to be levitating was definitely just jumping. But that doesn’t matter because the art featuring Joseph is ridiculous and in many cases just flat-out delightful.

Look at him in this painting by Ludovico Mazzanti. The range of emotion goes:

Monk 1: What the f-

Monk 2: Hold up, let’s give him a second and see where this goes


That said, while some artworks have all the joy and whimsy of Sally Field in The Flying Nun, others are a bit more… Linda Blair in The Exorcist. This Robert Sebree one’s a bit too quiet and echoey for comfort, and gives me the heebie-jeebies.

Here, Placido Costanzi depicts Joseph pulling a boy up into the air with him by his hair. Apparently the boy is possessed, and Joseph is trying to cure him. The boy is possessed. Not the bearded man dangling from the sky hanging onto a dude in the second most uncomfortable way possible. He’s the guy you get to cure the other guy. The Renaissance was weird.

This one includes two important lessons: one, that if you have a levitating priest in your church you can totally use him to light high-up candles and maybe do some dusting; and two, if you don’t want to miss seeing something pretty cool, don’t drop your hat.

Meanwhile this one’s just cheating. You can’t get everyone in the room to kneel down just to make you look higher, Joseph. This jump would barely get you in the Olympics but sure, it’s a “miracle”.

By the time Lorenzini here did an engraving of Joseph, it looks like everyone was pretty used to him hanging around a few feet off the floor. Except for the guy in the foreground with the attention-hogging calf muscles, people are mostly just going about their business gossiping, comforting their friends, and hanging their arses out. Just a normal day in a crowded flying monk church, no big deal.

Anyway, that’s Joseph of Cupertino, a saint who inspired a lot of excellent art, even though whether or not he was genuinely levitating is still.

You know.

Up in the air.




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