What is a Columbarium?

After Elgin, IL cremations, there are many options for using or storing cremains. One option for storing cremains is to use a columbarium.

A columbarium is a space dedicated for the storage of urns with cremated remains. Many columbariums are free-standing structures, but some mausoleums have a columbarium contained within them.

The name columbarium has its roots in the Latin word, columba, which means “dove.” This refers to the design of columbariums, which resembles a dovecote (an alcove shelter with nesting holes used for domesticated doves or pigeons).

While columbariums may be contained inside mausoleums, columbariums and mausoleums are not the same thing. Mausoleums are always discrete structures that are built to inter both whole body and cremated human remains, while columbariums are specifically designed to store urns with cremated remains.

The defining feature of columbariums are its rows of niches (commonly referred to as columbarium niches). Each niche holds a single urn of cremated remains. This niche can remain open or be closed (with a gravestone covering the opening). Whether the niche is open or closed may be dictated by the columbarium or by the wishes of the deceased’s family. Regardless, these niches are usually large enough to hold both the urn of cremains and a few small personal items that belonged to the deceased. A plaque with the deceased’s name is affixed to the niche.

Most columbariums offer both single niches for one urn with cremains or larger, family niches where the urns of all family members can be stored.

The funeral director at the funeral home can help with locating a columbarium that fits the needs of the family that wishes to store the urn that contains the cremains of their loved one. The funeral director can make all the arrangements for the final interment.

Until the last couple of decades, the cremains of loved ones were kept in an urn and displayed in a prominent place in the home (usually the family home) or they were scattered in a place that held special significance to the family or to the deceased person.

Columbariums offer an alternative that allows families to retain the cremains of their loved ones without having to keep them in their homes. Columbariums also offer a place to go and spend time with deceased loved ones, much like people do with graves in cemeteries.

Columbariums can be found just about anywhere in the United States, since their popularity has grown here as a final resting place for the cremains of a deceased loved one.

One of the best-known columbariums in the United States is the United States Columbarium at the Fresh Pond Crematory located in Queens, NY. Located at the apex of Mount Olivet Crescent in Middle Village, NY, the United States Columbarium holds the cremains of 40,000 people, including New York Yankees great Lou Gehrig, Lindbergh baby kidnapper Bruno Hauptman, and financier J. P. Morgan.

Another well-known columbarium in America is the San Francisco Columbarium (also known as the Neptune Society Columbarium). It was constructed in 1897 by Bernard J.S. Cahill and its architecture reflects the neoclassical style that was popular in San Francisco at the time. It survived – just barely – the 1906 earthquake, but fell into ruins in the mid-1930’s. In the late 1970’s, the Neptune Society began restoration work to return the Columbarium to its original state, which is evident in the building today.

For more information about columbariums after Elgin, IL cremations, our compassionate and experienced team at Collins & Stone Funeral Home is here to help. You can visit our funeral home at 128 S 5th Street, Rockford, IL 61104, or you can call us today at (815) 965-1515.

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