Columbaria – A Place of Peace and Personality

by M-Gillies

While many of the niches in the columbarium at Paris's Pere-Lachaise Cemetery are quite traditional, some people have used their space to project their personality for eternity.

It’s no hidden secret that cremations are on a sudden rise in the funeral industry, and while people may spread the ashes of their loved ones or keep an urn on their fireplace mantel, others prefer the more traditional route of interring them in a memorial site. For this, cemeteries around the world offer columbaria.

While the word columbarium can be used interchangeably with mausoleum, the two types of memorial buildings do serve different purposes in the storage of the interred. Where mausoleums are designed for the storage of entire bodies, columbaria are used as a public storage for cinerary urns.

Taking its name from the Italian word Columba, which means dove, the world’s first columbarium had nothing to do with human memorials. Rather, they were homes for large communities of pigeons and doves in Ancient Rome.

Much like the columbarium which housed birds, today’s columbaria are built with a number of small vaults in which urns containing cremation remains can be stored. Many columbaria are built with an arrangement of glass and marble-fronted niches and can be used as a permanent public storage for groups of dozens or even hundreds of people.

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