Rapid or instantaneous travel in the pre-modern world


Ad Honorem
Dec 2009
In the Byzantine world, there are a number of saints and a few sorcerers who have travel miracles associated with them. Agnellus reports about an abbot who was taught by demons how to sail instantly from Ravenna to Constantinople in a magic boat drawn on the sand. His nefarious activities were discovered when he arrived back much too soon and the exarch hauled him in or questioning. Nikon, a tenth-century saint who spent much of his career in what is now Greece is attributed with miraculously fast travel between Thebes and Corinth at one point. The instant arrival of news was associated with both holy and unholy means: the twelfth-century patriarch of Jerusalem, Leontios, is reported to have known about the death of a monk on Crete the instant it happened, while the anonymous tenth-century collection of imperial biographies ascribed to Theophanes Continuatus notes a case of demons delivering information about the fall of Syracuse to the Arabs to a naval commander in Monemvasia. The commander did not trust the demons, but in the end news arrived by more traditional channels and the demons were proved to be right. Instantaneous travel is a pretty uncommon miracle in Byzantine texts, but knowledge of events far away is not. The latter is typically used in hagiographical texts to vouch for the authority of the holy person in question.

What I'm curious about, and am interested in getting a discussion going about, is how unique this is to Byzantium? Does it reflect the fact that Byzantium maintained a travel and communication infrastructure that allowed information and people to move at speeds that seemed unnatural? I suspect it's not all that special, but life is short and I do not have time to read a swath of Latin hagiographies, and I lack the linguistic skills to even begin with the Islamic material. Do other cultures comment on the slow or speedy arrival of information in a similar manner? Do they comment on it at all? What other examples do we have from around the world and throughout history?
Oct 2018
Adelaide south Australia
Well, there was St Joseph of Cupertino, who used to levitate when he reached a state of ecstacy whilst praying.Don't know how far he traveled. I gather it was mainly a matter of flying around the church.

A cute 'anecdote' says he would often begin to float away whilst praying outside with the other monks. Then nearest would simply grab hold of his belt and hold on.

I'm not aware of such stories in western christianity. Perhaps such events were too common to be recorded,.:halo:
Saint Joseph of Cupertino,
O.F.M. Conv.

St. Joseph of Cupertino is lifted in flight at the site of the Basilica of Loreto,
by Ludovico Mazzanti (18th century)
Confessor Born June 17, 1603
Copertino, Apulia, Kingdom of NaplesDied September 18, 1663 (aged 60)
Osimo, Marche, Papal StatesVenerated in Roman Catholic Church
(Franciscans)Beatified February 24, 1753, Rome, Papal States, by Pope Benedict XIVCanonized July 16, 1767, Rome, Papal States, by Pope Clement XIIIMajor shrine Basilica of St. Joseph of Cupertino, Piazza Gallo, 10,
Osimo, Ancona, ItalyFeast September 18Patronage The City of Osimo, aviation, astronauts, mental handicaps, examinations, students
Joseph of Cupertino, O.F.M. Conv. (Italian: Giuseppe da Copertino; June 17, 1603 – September 18, 1663) was an Italian Conventual Franciscan friar who is honored as a Christian mystic and saint. He was said to have been remarkably unclever, but prone to miraculous levitation and intense ecstatic visions that left him gaping.[1]:iii

Joseph of Cupertino - Wikipedia

Of course there is also the story believed by Muslims that the Prophet made a journey by flying horse called Al Buraq.

Al-Burāq (Arabic: البُراق‎ al-Burāq or /ælˈbɔːræk/ "lightning") is a magical equid in Islamic mythology: a creature from the heavens that transported the prophets. Most notably hadith literature recounts that Buraq carried the Islamic prophet Muhammad from Mecca to Jerusalem and back during the Isra and Mi'raj or 'Night Journey'.[1]

Buraq - Wikipedia


Ad Honorem
Nov 2010
Western Eurasia
yes, It is also a frequent miracle in islamic culture, the most well known mentioned by bboomer Hz. Muhammad's (s.a.w.) night journey, or another from the Quran when the throne of Belkis was brought to Suleyman (a.s.) within the twinkling of an eye (Quran 27:38-40) from Yemen.

And fast travel (tayy al-ard or tayy al-makan) is also a "quite common" miracle in the hagiographies of the awliya (friends of God, that is the muslim equivalents of "saint") and discussed in sufi literature.
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