Joseph Mullooly
19 March 1812 - 25 June1880

A brief biography

The Dominican Joseph Mullooly was born in Lanesboro, County Longford (Ireland), on the Feast of Saint Joseph, 19 March 1812, a son of the farmer Gilbert Mullooly and his wife Bridget Dowd. In 1840 he set out for Italy, where he entered the Dominican Order on 7 September 1841. A year later he made profession and within three more years was ordained a priest.

Assigned to the Dominican priory of Saint Clement in Rome by the Master of the Order Vincent Ajello in 1846, he obtained the degree of lector in Sacred Theology at the priory of Santa Maria sopra Minerva, Rome in 1849. In 1850 Joseph Mullooly became prior of the priory of Saint Clement and remained so for the rest of his life, two brief periods excepted.
The basilica of Saint Clement was given to the Irish Dominicans in 1667, who have administrated it ever since.

In 1857 prior Joseph Mullooly began the excavations beneath  the present (upper) basilica.  Within ten years he had brought to light a fourth-century Christian (lower) basilica and an even earlier level, one that reached back almost to the time of Saint Clement himself. The discovery of the Tomb of Saint Cyril in 1863 earned Joseph Mullooly the perennial gratitude of all those who owe their Christian faith and culture to the Apostles of the Slavs, the Saints Cyril and his brother Methodius. Saint Cyril is known as founder of Slavonic literature and is an immensely important figure for the spiritual and political landscape of Europe today.
His own confrères demonstrated their appreciation of Joseph Mullooly, when the Irish Dominicans petitioned the Vicar General of the Order, Josephus Maria Sanvito, to award him the honorary degree of Master of Sacred Theology in 1873.

Later excavations (1912-1914) by Fr Louis Nolan O.P. showed that underneath this third layer of buildings there was a fourth stratum that contained buildings destroyed by the fire of Nero in 64 AD.
Joseph Mullooly was also a celebrated author. In 1869 he published 'St Clement Pope and Martyr and his Basilica in Rome'.  In the same year his 'Brevi notizie delle antiche pitture discoperte nella basilica sotteranea di San Clemente' was published in Italian, French and English while his English translation of E. Cartier’s biography of Fra Angelico, 'Life of Beato Angelico de Fiesole of the Order of Friars Preachers', appeared in 1865.

Weakened by malaria and pleurisy, Joseph Mullooly collapsed after Mass on 20 June 1880.

He died five days later in his room in the priory of Saint Clement and was buried in Campo Verano. In 1912 his remains were returned to the Saint Clement where they now lie beneath the High Altar of the Lower Basilica.Sources: Internet and Information of the Irish Post.


The Basilica of Saint Clement in Rome is named after Pope Saint Clement I, the third successor of Saint Peter. The adjoining priory of Saint Clement is the house of the Irish Dominican Province since 1677.

The stamp is based on a watercolour by William Ewing (1863) depicting Joseph Mullooly in the narthex (hall) of the fourth-century (lower) basilica with two visitors.  

Ireland 2007, Mi 1798   Sc -.



Visit by Pope Pius IX to the narthex of the lower
basilica of the basilica of Saint Clement in Rome,
in company with Joseph Mullooly, O.P. in 1865.

Vatican City 2007. Cover of the set of picture postcards.




Joseph Mullooly on the postage stamp of the series of picture postcards after the watercolour by William Ewing (1863)
depicting Joseph Mullooly in the narthex (hall) of the fourth-century (lower) basilica with two visitors.

Vatican City 2007. Set of picture postcards.

NB For the history of the Basilica of San Clemente, part I,  click here.

      For the works of art in the Basilica of San Clemente, part II, click here.


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