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What is a Columbarium?

Published: August 29, 2022

What is a Columbarium? And can they be separate from a cemetery?

Merriam Webster definition: a structure of vaults lined with recesses for cinerary urns

A columbarium does not have to be on cemetery grounds and does not have to be owned by a company that manages a cemetery. A columbarium is an option for an above ground burial for urns in spaces known as niches. Some are built on the same grounds as a cemetery, but this is not a requirement to build one. In fact, these buildings are often found on the same grounds as a funeral home.

Some columbarium are enclosed into a building on the grounds of a cemetery or funeral home and others are open to the elements. There are also private or family columbariums that can be located at places such as a cemetery or even on old church grounds. They can be a garden style building, private, family or church run columbarium. These structures can be a large building or as simple as a single wall.

There are many similarities between a cemetery and columbarium, such as the ability to purchase family plots, vases for flowers and a customizable name plate. They can also have emblems or engravings on the door of the crypt.

Families have the option of purchasing a single urn size niche or one that will fit multiple urns. There will still be an opening and closing cost for the niche for every urn placed inside. There may also be maintenance and administrative fees.

While they serve a similar purpose to a cemetery of being a final resting place, a cemetery exclusively offers in ground burial and columbarium exclusively offers entombment of cremated remains.

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