Columbaria - Everything you need to know

Columbaria - Everything you need to know

Columbaria are special places to keep cremated remains in cremation urns. They are popular throughout Europe and are becoming more common in the UK. The history of columbaria goes back a long way.

What is a columbarium?

A columbarium is a wall, building, or room containing cavities to hold urns containing the cremated remains. Granite, or some other stone, is usually the material of choice for the wall. Each niche can hold from one to four urns. A faceplate sometimes seals the entrance and usually bears an inscription, but, sometimes the niche is left open. Plaques with the name and details of each person appear by every niche.

What does the word columbarium mean?

The name comes from the Latin word for dove-columba because the wall of niches looks similar to a dovecote. The word became columbarium and the plural is columbaria.

Columbaria in history

Columbaria were very popular in Roman times, especially in the city of Rome. During this period, they were usually underground chambers. They were well organised, with mosaic floors, stuccoed ceilings, and walls bearing lovely frescoes. Some had space for as many as 3000 urns, but many were much smaller containing from 150-300 niches.

Columbaria in the UK

The first custom-built UK columbarium is at Woking Crematorium. One of the oldest and most impressive columbaria is at the Golders Green Crematorium in North London, which contains thousands of cremation urns. Some churches have a columbarium.

Sacred Stones offer secular columbaria around the UK.

Why keep ashes in a columbarium?

As cremation has become more popular so have columbaria. For those who do not want to bury or scatter the ashes a columbarium is a good choice. Some people like to keep the ashes in a beautiful urn in their home, but some do not feel comfortable keeping them so closeby. A columbarium lets the ashes remain in the company of other deceased in a well-cared-for place. Additionally, family and friends can visit them, much like in a graveyard.

Catholics can not keep cremated ashes at home or scatter them, so a columbarium is a great option.

How much does it cost to keep ashes in a columbarium?

Prices vary enormously, usually depending on the location. The position of the niche within the columbarium and the size will also affect the price. You can usually lease a niche for a period from ten to twenty-five years. The initial cost could be from £200 to £450, and there is often a yearly maintenance fee.