Are there rules reguarding the placement of statues in church, specifically those of Mary and Joseph?
From the 2002 General Instruction of the Roman Missal (GIRM) approved for the USA, which can be accessed from romanrite.com/girm.html :
318. In the earthly Liturgy, the Church participates, by a foretaste, in that heavenly Liturgy which is celebrated in the holy city of Jerusalem toward which she journeys as a pilgrim, and where Christ is sitting at the right hand of God; and by venerating the memory of the Saints, she hopes one day to have some part and fellowship with them.
[footnote 132: Cf. Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, Sacrosanctum Concilium, no. 8.]
Thus, images of the Lord, the Blessed Virgin Mary, and the Saints, in accordance with the Church’s most ancient tradition, should be displayed for veneration by the faithful in sacred buildings
Cf. The Roman Pontifical: Order of the Dedication of a Church and an Altar, editio typica, 1984, Chapter 4, no. 10;
The Roman Ritual, Book of Blessings, editio typica, 1984, Order for the Blessing of Images for Public Veneration by the Faithful, nos. 984-1031.]
and should be arranged so as to usher the faithful toward the mysteries of faith celebrated there. For this reason, care should be taken that their number not be increased indiscriminately, and that they be arranged in proper order so as not to distract the faithful’s attention from the celebration itself.
[footnote 134: Cf. Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, Sacrosanctum Concilium, no. 125.]
There should usually be only one image of any given Saint. Generally speaking, in the ornamentation and arrangement of a church as far as images are concerned, provision should be made for the devotion of the entire community as well as for the beauty and dignity of the images.”
The footnote above about the Book of Blessings, n. 984-1031, refers to n. 1257-1304 of Book of Blessings, Liturgical Press, Minnesota, 1989, ISBN 0-8146-1875-8. (The numbers change from the Latin edition to the USA edition.)
It has in n. 1259: “Whenever a new sacred image is first exposed for public veneration by the faithful, particularly in a church, there should be a solemn blessing by use of the special rite given here; but the rite is not to be celebrated within Mass.”
The 2001 Directory on Popular Piety and the Liturgy is at vatican.va/roman_curia/congregations/ccdds/documents/rc_con_ccdds_doc_20020513_vers-direttorio_en.html . It has a index at the end, with lots of references listed under “images”. In particular:
"18. … So as to ensure that the iconography used in sacred places is not left to private initiatives, those with responsibility for churches and oratories should safeguard the dignity, beauty and quality of those sacred images exposed for public veneration. Likewise, they should avoid the de facto imposition on the community of pictures or statues inspired by the private devotion of individuals(22).
The Bishops, therefore, and the rectors of sanctuaries are to ensure that the sacred images produced for the use of the faithful, either in their homes or on their persons, or those borne aloft on their shoulders, are not reduced to banalities, nor risk giving rise to error."
In former times men and women were separated in church. Near Schulenburg, Texas are what are termed “The Painted Churches” which were built by Eastern Euopean immigrants over a century ago. We noticed that only the pews on one side have clips to hold the men’s hats; so it must have been the men’s side. There is a saint’s statue at each pillar on each side of the center aisle: women saints on the women’s side and men saints on the men’s side. I wonder if the customary placing of Saint Joseph on one side altar and the Blessed Mother on the other derives from a similar practice?