Friday, April 5, 2013

A Look at Columbariums

Outside Columbarium
Similar to a mausoleum, a private or public structure that holds coffins, a columbarium is a structure that has niches or vaults to hold urns that contain cremains (cremated remains).

Six-sided Columbarium
It may consist of a wall or ground structure built of stone, brick, granite, or marble.  Or, it may be in a building where coffins and urns are placed in a comfortable environment with areas of reflection for family members to use when visiting.

Roman Columbarium
Roman Columba
Columbariums were first used by the Romans.  The ashes of loved ones were put in ornate urns and placed in sacred underground chambers, which were decorated with frescos and mosaics.  The word columbarium is from the Latin term columba which means, “dwelling place of the dove.” A columba originally meant a sectional housing structure for doves and pigeons, what is now called a dovecote.

Interior Columbarium
For hundreds of years, churches were the main places where columbariums were found. Many Catholic churches have columbariums located in them. The most favored locations for religious columbariums are within the church, or in church cemeteries.

Resurrection Mausoleum & Columbarium
Pickle Studio
One such columbarium is in the Midwest.  The Resurrection Mausoleum and Columbarium in Justice, Illinois, was constructed in 1969.  The Conrad Pickel Studio of Vero Beach, Florida, began work on the stained glass windows in the early 1960’s.  Over 22,000 square feet of faceted glass were used in the designs. 

Inside Resurrection
Outside Resurrection
This site has become a major architectural landmark and its faceted glass walls are the largest glass installation in the world.

The Resurrection Mausoleum and Columbarium is located at 7201 Archer Avenue in the Chicago suburb of Justice.  For more information phone (708) 449-6100 or visit

Buddhist Columbarium
Since ancient times, Buddhism has also allowed the ashes of the deceased to be placed in urns and deposited in columbariums.  These structures may be attached to a Buddhist temple.

Exterior Columbariium
Mausoleum & Columbarium in Indianapolis
Now, public cemeteries and mausoleums have also added columbariums to their options.  A columbarium may be a freestanding unit, or part of a large, public mausoleum.

Inside Marble Niches
The structure may consist of an outdoor wall containing niches.  Or may be inside a building constructed just for this purpose. 

For Urns & Caskets
Columbariums are also located in public mausoleums, built in walls, along side the vaults for coffins.

The cremation urns or boxes are usually a specific size and are placed inside the lined columbarium niche.  The door is then closed and locked. 

Niche doors may be decorated with the deceased’s photo, or symbols of their life.

Garden Wall Columbarium
Columbariums allow family members another option when burial of a loved one may be too costly, or too far removed from where they are.  This lets the family “move” a loved one with them, if the need arises, yet still provides a special place where family and friends can remember and memorialize their loved one.

Interior Columbarium
A columbarium does not require an in-earth burial, but instead, allows for the interment of a loved one in a structure, away from the elements.  Most columbariums have seating available for the comfort of those who come to visit, and reflect.  As our world becomes more populated, you will see the need for more columbariums.  Will they eventually replace in-ground cemeteries?  Only time will tell…

~ Joy


  1. Interesting could well be the way to go looking how cemeterys are filling up over here.

    1. True, Bill - That is becoming a problem.

    2. Clifford D.Simak wrote a marvellous novel set in the far future entitled "Cemetery World" where Earth, long after a disastrous global war, became a cemetery and place of pilgrimage.

  2. Why not use old rural cemetaries to help solve the space problem for burials? There are quite a few with plenty of space in my area-I even saw one in which the newest grave was from the 1960's. Prahaps people could be buried next to their farmer great-great grandparents.
    Just an idea.

    1. Actually, that's a great idea! I would think that as long as there was a sexton or county official to condone a burial, it could work. And I like the idea of being buried next to ancestors.....

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