… as the whole Church together, we should look to the future for all, especially in the parish, to splendor and right worship …
St. Charles Borromeo
There’s never been a comprehensive collation of all of the relevant texts governing the design and construction of our churches, scattered as they are through the canons and the pontificals, and implied in the liturgical books. There’s never even been an index, a simple list of all of those juristic and liturgical texts containing rules that must be followed in the design and construction of any of our church buildings.
But in 1577 St. Carlo Borromeo, Cardinal-Archbishop of Milan, issued a code of regulations for the construction and renovation of the churches in his archdiocese, which was soon taken up and published as his Instructionum fabricæ et supellectilis ecclesiasticæ (Milan 1599).
Looking all the way back to earliest Christian times, and forward to the great age of the Baroque and beyond, San Carlo’s Instruction is indispensable for the study of those regulations and of the greatest churches of our heritage. Even after Vatican II, this text is unsurpassed as a comprehensive catalogue of the fundamental considerations of law, piety, and good common sense.
But, like those regulations themselves, the Instruction hasn’t been easily available to us. At the millennium the Libreria Editrice Vaticana published an edition of the original Latin with a translation into Italian, but only one English translation has appeared, in 1857. It has not been superseded, and it is at present extremely rare.
We present here a facsimile of that English edition, St. Charles Borromeo’s Instructions on Ecclesiastical Building, Translated from the Original Latin, and Annotated, by George J. Wigley, M.R.I.B.A. (London 1857) reproduced photographically from a copy in the library of Kevin Orlin Johnson, Ph.D., who has supplied a new introduction, additional notes composed with reference to the Vatican bilingual edition, and a new copious index and glossary. Wigley’s illustrations, unfortunately printed in a faint and fading sepia tone, have also been reproduced photographically, enhanced, and clarified.