Archive for mausoleum

Mausoleum History

Have you ever wondered how the memorial industry got to where it is today? What would we find if we were to examine columbarium & mausoleum history?


What is a columbarium? The term columbarium is sometimes used interchangeably with the word mausoleum, but, in fact, the two types of memorial buildings have different purposes. While both are intended to be permanent public memorials for groups of dozens, or even hundreds, of people, mausoleums are designed for entire bodies while a columbarium is a place for the respectful and usually public storage of cinerary urns (i.e., urns holding a deceased’s cremated remains). The term comes from the Latin columba (dove) and originally referred to compartmentalized housing for doves and pigeons called a dovecote. An example is found below.



“Newark Castle doocot int” by User:Dave souza – Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons –


The world’s first “columbariums” in Ancient Rome had nothing to do with human memorials. Rather, they were homes for large communities of pigeons and doves, which, have long been commonly raised for many domestic purposes. Just as in today’s columbariums built for cremation urns, the original columbariums consisted of dozens, or even hundreds or thousands, of small shelves, called “niches.” In the first columbariums, the niches housed birds. Today, they are permanent homes for cremation urns each filled with human ashes.


In the Bet Guvrin area of Israel, several series of large caves dug into soft rock were found. There were several theories about their original use, for ritual burial, for growing pigeons to be used for ritual sacrifice, or for raising pigeons for fertilizer production. One such cave had been covered by an earthquake close to the time of its original usage, and had no signs of secondary usage. This cave had no ashes found in it, but also no pigeon droppings. Read More→