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This page presents a brief bibliography on liturgical architecture of articles by Daniel McCarthy and James Leachman, along with a brief rational for these publications.

photo of the Mater Ecclesiae Chapel, Street Ashton, Stretton under Fosse, Warwickshire, England

How liturgical architecture supports and sustains a prolonged ritual narrative is the overall theme of a series of monthly articles I wrote for the “Parish Practice” page of  The Tablet of London beginning in December 2011. You are invited to read the following articles available by subscription, which includes electronic access to all back issues and to all of these articles in PDF format.

The articles already written synthesize ritual action and architecture in the hopes that a parish develop its architectural arrangement as a means to supporting a more developed ritual action in the liturgy. By which I do not mean more smells and bells; rather, I intend the ordinary processional character of the Roman liturgy. I wish to support a more developed ritual narration, enacted according to all the dimensions of a church building including the length and breadth and height of the building as well as its natural illumination and acoustics all culminating in an exchange of gifts. Much of my insight is based on and developed from the work of Crispino Valenziano, prof. emeritus of Sant’Anselmo, Rome, whose writing is available only in Italian. Thus these articles in The Tablet mark the debut in English of my reflections on his well-developed ritual – architectural system.

Bibliography on liturgical architecture

Stanbrook Abbey Church

McCarthy, D.P., “An Enfolding Light”, in Dedication of the Abbey Church 6 September 2015: A commemorative issue of Stanbrook Benedictines 8 (Advent 2015) 10-14 (click to dwonload here).

McCarthy, D.P.,“Stanbrook Abbey Church: Enfolding Light”, Westminster Record, (Oct 2015) 19; read the article here. Republished as:

Come into the Light

Many of the following articles are included in the book Come into the LightChurch interiors for the celebraiton of liturgy. An even share of articles by Dom James Leachman are also included in this volume.

You may read a brief article about Come into the Light. It was published in Kansas Monks and can be read here.

On the pre-eminence of Light, Word, Communion. See the following articles written by me or my colleague James Leachman:

Pre-eminence of illumination – the baptistery:

McCarthy, D.P., “Becoming light”, The Tablet (7 April 2012) 22.

Leachman, J.G., “Twoards the enduring city”, The Tablet (12 January 2013) 17.

Pre-eminence of Word – the hall:

McCarthy, D.P., “Mix and Match”, The Tablet (28 July 2012) 15.

Leachman, J.G., “Assembled as one”, The Tablet (5 September 2009) 17.

Leachman, J.G., “Make a gift of your ministry” (2 January 2010) 18.

Pre-eminence of meal – altar and dais:

McCarthy, D.P., “To and from the living waters”, The Tablet (16 June 2012) 12.


Monuments: font, ambo, altar. The font and altar were covered to some degree in the above articles. The following consider the ambo:

On the baptismal font as the monument of illumination:

Leachman, J.G., “A Time to be born” (15 March 2008) 19.

Leachman, J.G., “Water for ‘new plants’ ” (5 April 2008) 17.

Leachman, J.G., “Church of the senses” (20 April 2013) 12.

On the ambo as the monument of the Word:

McCarthy, D.P., “Discoveries at an empty tomb”, The Tablet (3 March 2012) 16.

Leachman, J., “Raise up the word”, The Tablet (20 February 2010) 19.


Dimensions of architecture and ritual

On processing along the main axis of a church toward encounter:

McCarthy, D.P., “Intimate encounters”, The Tablet (17/24 December 2011) 29.

On the setting sun, the last judgment and the reign of God: the façade inside and out:

McCarthy, D.P., “From there to eternity”, The Tablet (10 November 2012), 16.

On the vertical dimension: the axis of the world : Axis mundi:

McCarthy, D.P., “Caught between heaven and earth”, The Tablet (14 January 2012) 15.

On the three axes: a synthesis:

McCarthy, D.P., “Be guided by the light”, The Tablet (27 April 2013) 13.

On the ministry of presiding from the chair:

McCarthy, D.P., “Its the taking part”, The Tablet (6 October 2012) 16.

On the sacramental nature of liturgy reflected in liturgical architecture:

McCarthy, D.P., “Threshold of transcendence”, The Tablet (7 September 2013) 16.


Church arrangements: These concern how various elements of the liturgy and so of architecture interrelate.

Ritual model: font – ambo – altar:

McCarthy, D.P., “Home from home”, The Tablet (28 July 2012) 15.

Two part structure of the Eucharist:

McCarthy, D.P., “Stand up for the Lord”, The Tablet (25 August 2012) 13.

Standing around a central altar: the church as icon:

McCarthy, D.P., “Gather them in”, The Tablet (25 May 2013) 13.

Two-table pattern: the table of the Word and table of the Eucharist:

McCarthy, D.P., “Table of good contents”, The Tablet (29 June 2013) 16.

Basilica arrangement: more dynamic than a centre-thrust stage:

McCarthy, D.P., “A place for everyone”, The Tablet (27 July 2013) 14.

Our other publications on liturgical architecture include the following:



McCarthy, D., “Return to the font”, The Tablet (30 April 2011) 14.

McCarthy, D., “Happiness without end”, The Tablet (29 March 2008) 16.

McCarthy, D., “Unity through the Spirit”, The Tablet (2 August 2008) 18.


HALL: On the ministerial nature of the assembly:

McCarthy, D.P., “A ‘Monument’ from Which to Proclaim Resurrection”, The Tablet 6:8 (2003) 4-5.


AMBO, Monument of the resurrection:

McCarthy, D.P., “A ‘Monument’ from Which to Proclaim Resurrection”, Kansas Monks 6:8 (2003) 4-5.

McCarthy, D.P., “Fit for a nuptial feast”, The Tablet (5 November 2011) 16.

The following contains photos with descriptive captions of the ambo at Santa Sabina, Rome:

McCarthy, D.P. – J.G. Leachman, Listen to the Word: Commentaries on Selected Opening Prayers of Sundays and Feasts with Sample Homilies, Revised from articles that appeared in The Tablet, 18 March 2006 – 15 September 2007, (Documenta rerum ecclesiasticarum instaurata. Varia 1) The Tablet Trust, London 2009. Available here.


McCarthy, D., “One Body, Many Ministries: The Presidential Chair in the Liturgical Assembly”, Environment and Art Letter 17 (2004) 20-24.



McCarthy, D., “Liturgy – Our Offering” Monastic Liturgy Forum Newsletter 19: 3 (Spring 2008) 1-4; reprinted in: McCARTHY, D.P. – J.G. LEACHMAN, Listen to the Word: Commentaries on Selected Opening Prayers of Sundays and Feasts with Sample Homilies, The Tablet, London 2009, 130).

McCarthy, D.P., “Sacred exchanges”, The Tablet (22/29 December 2007) 28-29.

McCarthy, D.P., “Fit for a nuptial feast”, The Tablet (5 November 2011) 16.


PROCESSIONS: on the double procession and encounter with Chris (as mentioned above)t:

McCarthy, D.P., “Intimate encounters”, The Tablet (17/24 December 2011) 29.



Sr Laurentia Johns mentions the two presentations I gave at Stanbrook Abbey, Wass, on 12-13 September 2011 treating the theology of the ambo and altar-ciborium. in , Listen  Stanbrook Abbey friends’ newsletter, (Advent 2011) 4.

Online resources

Now available online: Dictionnaire d’Archéologie Chrétienne et de Liturgie

Here is another link to several of the volumes.

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