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According to religious sources, there are numerous saints to whom the ability to fly or levitate has been attributed. Most of these flying saints are mentioned as such in literature and sources associated with them.
The ability was also attributed to other figures in early Christianity. The apocryphal Acts of Peter gives a legendary tale of Simon Magus' death. Simon is performing magic in the forum, and in order to prove himself to be a god, he flies up into the air. The apostle Peter prays to God to stop his flying, and he stops mid-air and falls, breaking his legs, whereupon the crowd, previously non-hostile, stones him to death.
The church of Santa Francesca Romana claims to have been built on the spot in question (thus claiming that Simon Magus could indeed fly), claims that Saint Paul was also present, and that a dented slab of marble that it contains bears the imprints of the knees of Peter and Paul during their prayer.
The phenomenon of levitation was recorded again and again for certain saints. Saint Francis of Assisi is recorded as having been "suspended above the earth, often to a height of three, and often to a height of four cubits." St. Alphonsus Liguori, when preaching at Foggia, was lifted before the eyes of the whole congregation several feet from the ground. Liguori is also said to have had the power of bilocation.
Flying or levitation was also associated with witchcraft. When it came to female saints, there was a certain ambivalence expressed by theologians, canon lawyers, inquisitors, and male hagiographers towards the powers that they were purported to have. By 1500, the image of the female saint in popular imagination had become similar to that of the witch. Both witches and female saints were suspected of flying through the air, whether in saintly levitation or bilocation, or in a witches’ Sabbath.
In his bestseller Autobiography of a Yogi Paramahamsa Yogananda mentions a levitating saint in India. His name was Nagendranath Bhaduri. The saint had mastered in 'Astanga Yoga', which means eightfold Yoga. Yoga, in Sanskrit means Combination or Union. Thus Yoga is a technique to unite with the ultimate being. Nagendranath Bhaduri had mastered in several Yogic techniques including various Pranayamas or the breathing techniques as mentioned in Patanjali's 'Yoga Sootra' (Yoga techniques). Paramahamsa Yogananda mentioned in the book that Nagendranath Bhaduri had performed Bhastrika Pranayama so strongly that he felt like he was in the middle of a storm and after performing the Pranayama, Bhaduri Mahasaya entered into a state of an ecstatic calm. The chapter which gives description about Bhaduri Mahasaya titles 'The Levitating Saint'. In India there is description of another saint Gyaneshwara who too had the power to levitate.
List of levitating saints
- Saint Alphonsus Liguori
- Saint Archangela Girlani
- Saint Catherine of Siena
- Saint Christina the Astonishing
- Blessed Christina von Stommeln
- Saint Edmund Rich
- Saint Francis of Paola
- Saint Francis Fasani
- Saint Francis Xavier
- Saint Gemma Galgani
- Saint Gerard Majella
- Saint Ignatius Loyola
- Saint John Bosco
- Saint John Joseph of the Cross
- Saint Joseph of Cupertino
- Saint Ludgardis of Tongeren
- Saint Luke Thaumaturgus (Luke the Younger)
- Saint Martin de Porres
- Saint Michael Garicoits
- Blessed Miguel Pro
- Saint Paul of the Cross
- Saint Peter Claver
- Saint Peter of Alcantara
- Saint Philip Neri
- Saint Teresa of Avila
- Saint Thomas Aquinas
- Saint Seraphim of Sarov
- Saint Nagendranath Bhaduri (India)
- The Acts of Peter
- Montague Summers, Witchcraft and Black Magic, (Courier Dover, 2000), 200.
- Caroline Walker Bynum, Holy Feast and Holy Fast: The Religious Significance of Food to Medieval Women (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1987), 23.
- Levitating Saints
- Patron Saints Index: Saint Joseph of Cupertino
- Saint Patrick's Church: Saints of February 7