What is a Columbarium?

what a columbarium looks like

Ever walked through a cemetery and notice a tall structure with gravestones and the rest are vacant slots? What you saw is what we call a Columbarium. What is a columbarium anyway? They are above the ground building that houses cremated remains, it’s a place for the respectful and usually public storage of cinerary urns.

A columbarium is composed of small wall spaces called niches. What is a niche? A niche or cremation niche is an above-ground burial space, in which a decedent’s urn, containing their cremated remains, is placed and properly sealed. Each niche holds a single urn, though there is a possibility to purchase a group of niches together to house multiple urns.

Once the urn containing the ashes has been placed in the columbarium, a plaque will be placed on the outside of the niche for the identification of the cremated remains interred inside the slot.

Where did the Columbarium start?

yellow and gold looking columbarium

This type of compartmentalized structure was first found in ancient Rome, often on the buildings’ rooftops, but used differently. The purpose of the early columbarium was to house the birds. The term ‘columbarium’ has Latin roots and means something like a dovecote or structure to house doves. The use of columbarium was widespread during the early Roman Empire, and human cremation was also a normal practice.

The first record of a columbarium used for human ashes comes from ancient Asia, where Buddhist people used them and built them to resemble their temples.
The design of a columbarium can be very simple or elaborate, and most of the time they are made of masonry or stone such as granite or marble, but they can be made from other materials as well.

Today, columbaria can be free-standing units, a part of a building, or even a part of a mausoleum. In the modern day, certain manufacturers who produce columbaria can now build the structure entirely off-site and then just brought to the cemetery by a large truck.

How Much Does A Columbarium Cost?

In the past decade, cremating a deceased body has gone popular over the traditional burial. Though the Catholic Church is still strict about choosing a traditionally preferred burial, many practicing Catholics are selecting cremation because the process costs a lot less.

A steady rise in a columbarium will undoubtedly follow the increase of columbarium construction demand, but did it also result in more affordable niches for the cremation urns?

There are things you need to consider when planning to purchase a cremation niche. A columbarium doesn’t necessarily mean you get to save tons of money if you choose it rather than the traditional burial. The cost of it includes the property that will hold the urn, the endowment care, the one inurnment that includes the labor, recording of the process, and name and dates engraved on the urn.

As usual, the cost of a cremation niche still varies on where and how your arrangement with the facility will be. There are so-called indoor niches and outdoor niches; the indoor niches, that ranges from $300 to $3,000 or more, are commonly more expensive as they provide a comfortable and well-furnished location, giving the visitors a less hassle place to visit their deceased loved one especially when there’s hot or bad weather.
Other fees like placing the urn in the niche and tracking records can add $200 up to $700. Also, burying the cremated remains alone can cost from $900 up to $4,000 or more. Still, the facility fee and the overall cost depends on the location and day. The location, whether it’s a public cemetery or a private one, prices of the property may vary significantly. Having the interment on the weekend can also add as much as $150. Lastly, immediate or last-minute purchase of a niche can add another 15% to 30%. For a more detailed costing of how much do columbarium cost, you can check it here.

Some countries build structures dedicated exclusively for cremated remains. The Sanctuarium, situated in the Philippines and established in late 2006, is one of the biggest columbaria in Asia, its capacity housing is 25,000 vaults. Almost half of this figure has already been sold, and as of 2012, the establishment already inters 2,500 remains as of today. Also, this funeral parlor specifically caters to Filipino-Chinese families who want to observe their cultural traditions. It’s like a hotel for the dead, according to Google.

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