St Luke, Patron Saint of Artists, Icon by Frank C Turner

Ecclesiastical Standards


In his address to the Guild in June 2003, Monsignor D. W. Neumann, heavily cited the book Church Building and Furnishing: The Church’s Way by J. B.  O’Connell.


In dealing with the “laws of Sacred Art”, O’Connell makes clear that these laws do not constitute a set of regulations but rather norms to which artists who work for the Church, and who create sacred art, must conform.


These “laws”, which the jurors will use in evaluation, are summarized below.

Sacred art must be:


  • Orthodox, in complete conformity with dogmatic truth, the teaching of the church, for sacred art is pictorial, apologetic, teaches, interprets, and should aid the Catholic formation of worshippers. ​​​​​​

  • In conformity with the moral law, for sacred art must edify and raise the spirit rather than numb the mind and shock the soul.

  • Marked by a tone of holiness and reverence, for sacred art is art used for a sacred purpose and so must avoid those elements foreign to that purpose.

  • Consistent with liturgical laws.  As sacred art is part of external worship, and liturgical art is part of the Sacred Liturgy, what the artist makes for the church-from the building itself down to the smallest requisite of worship-must be fully adapted to its purpose and in entire accordance with liturgical law.

  • Sacred art is subsidiary and subject to ecclesiastical control. When art enters the church, it must accept control other than that of mere aesthetics, because it is no longer a question of beauty alone or of personal experience, but of a religious message which must be authentic. “On condition that these modern arts, architecture, sculpture, painting, steer a middle course between an excessive naturalism on the one hand and an exaggerated symbolism on the other, and take into account more the needs of the Christian community than the personal taste and judgment of the artist, they should be allowed full scope if with due reverence and honour, they put themselves at the service of our churches and sacred rites” writes Pope Pius XII in Mediator Dei. 

  • Social in character, for sacred art is art at the service of prayer and liturgical art is at the service of the community at prayer.  Sacred art must work to make revelation intelligible to the faithful.  Private revelation, and art that speaks in secret codes has no place in the church and is of limited value to anyone but the artist who has produced it.


Technical Standards


In dealing with the technical aspects of the works to be considered the jurors will use the following guidelines. 


Works will be judged on:


  • Maturity in concept, composition and design

  • Excellence of craftsmanship

  • Quality of materials

  • Balance between fidelity to tradition and originality

  • Presentation

  • Acceptable Media: oil, tempera, acrylic, wax, drawing, pastel, watercolour, fine art prints, architectural renderings and models, photography, sculpture, textile arts, glass, pottery, eggs, calligraphy, woodwork, and metal work.  All prints must be marked.

  • Unacceptable media: objects made from kits, molds, prefabricated materials, perishables, food products or fragrances.  

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