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Compiled under the direction of Cardinal Vaughan

[Formerly entitled: Directions for the Use of Altar Societies and Architects]

In a period when many Catholic churches are being restored to a traditional sense of function and beauty, the re-availability of this invaluable book could have perhaps not come at a more providential moment!

This 76-page volume is packed with helpful information concerning the altar and its appointments, the sacred vessels and linens, and the vestments used in the Roman Liturgy. It also addresses the baptistery, mortuary chapel and Stations of the Cross.


As described in its Foreword:


"The scope of this small book is strictly limited. It aims at giving, in a concise but sufficiently full form and with complete accuracy, the liturgical law—for churches that follow the Roman Rite…


"It is important that architects, artificers and all who are engaged in the production of what is needed for divine worship, and members of altar societies, sacristans and others who have care of the sanctuary should understand that the Church has very definite laws concerning this work—laws that should be known and faithfully observed…"


Revised and enlarge several times since its original compilation in 1881 under Bishop (later Cardinal) Vaugh (and originally under the title of Directions for the Use of Altar Societies and Architects), this informative book has been a frequently-cited authoritative resource in the English-speaking world for the Roman Rite.


This republished edition has been augmented with diagrams and an extract from the edifying Foreword of the earlier 1912 edition, which states:


"It is hoped that this little book may help towards a knowledge of these laws and towards their loyal observance to the greater glory of God."


If you want to ensure that your sanctuary, altar and liturgical requisites are in conformity with the best traditions and mindset of the Roman Catholic Church, this book will help you obtain that goal!


This little volume is also a God-send for Catholics who want to learn more about the sacred liturgy, the primary source of our continued growth in sanctifying grace.


Softcover. 76 pages with illustrations.



This rare book outlines historic liturgical practices regarding the design, decoration, and use of the altar, sanctuary, baptistery, pulpit, sacred vessels, and vestments. It is concise yet detailed in illustrating and defining the components of a church and the reasons for the design of liturgical elements. Duncan Stroik, Institute of Sacred Architecture

* * * * *

​A contemporaneous review of the 1912 edition
The Tablet; Books of the Week; August 17, 1912

The Construction of Altars. Altars and Architects.

Directions for the use of Altar Societies and Architects
New edition, revised and enlarged.

This little book is indispensable to priests, church architects, and all who are interested in work for churches.


It is based upon the decrees of the Sacred Congregation of Rites, Synodal decisions, and approved authorities. In this new edition the references to Roman decrees have been made to correspond with the numbering in the latest authentic decrees issued. Particular instructions are given as to the material and dimensions of every object in church and sanctuary and sacristy.


One could never be surprised if such a serviceable handbook as this were positively prescribed by episcopal authority, for it is distressing that in what concerns the altar there should be so much of the “endless variety, and private taste and preference,” of which Cardinal Vaughan once complained.


In preparing this book Father Tatum has been assisted by the son of the architect of Westminster Cathedral [Osmund Bentley], who has drawn the numerous diagrams and has written notes to accompany them.

A Guide for Altar and Sanctuary

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