Mausoleums and Everything You Need to Know

mausoleums and everything you need to know by Memorial Cremations

There are noble mausoleums rooted for centuries in retired glades of parks, among the growing timber and the fern..

Charles Dickens


Mausoleums are often connected to the Gothic Age, which flourished during the 1800’s. Writers like Edgar Allen Poe started penning stories about death and premature entombment. Bram Stoker wrote the gothic horror novel, Dracula, about a vampire who was entombed in a mausoleum. The house above ground offered Dracula a safe haven during the day from sunlight and a dark home at night from which he could flee to hunt for his prey.

There is an urban myth about Poe and his request to be buried in a mausoleum.  As the story goes, Poe feared he might be buried alive, so he requested he be entombed in a mausoleum. He reasoned that if, per chance, he was entombed alive, he would be above ground, so he could pull the cord he requested to be put in his casket and it would ring the bell to which it was attached on the outside of the mausoleum door.  Thus his fate would be known; someone would hear the bell and come to his rescue.

These stories put mausoleums in an almost obsolete category, but that is far from the truth. Though most families today choose the more traditional in ground burial and select a type of headstone as a marker for the grave, you can choose to use a mausoleum, an external freestanding building, with the tomb inside. It is constructed as a monument and encloses the interment space or burial chamber of a deceased person or people. Bodies are stored above ground in a defined space in the mausoleum called a crypt.

Albeit, a rather grandiose choice, modern mausoleums are still found around the world. They can be built to house the remains of one person or the remains of several people. They can house a casket in their interior space or a number of crypts (burial compartments) can be built inside to hold the remains of all family members.

A positive about a mausoleum it that it protects your loved ones remains from the elements. It also saves space over the traditional in-ground burial, which requires a plot for each deceased person, because it can hold the remains of a number of people. Though initially, mausoleums were built as a way to memorialize those in power like kings and queens, today mausoleums are built for any family who wants one. In areas like New Orleans where the ground is low and too damp for in-ground burial, mausoleums have been built for practical purposes. Whatever the reason for the choice, it is best to have as much information as possible when it comes to making that decision.

The following article shares information about mausoleums: the history, the types, the crypts inside the mausoleum, the costs and the pros and cons.

I give you the mausoleum of all hope and desire…I give it to you not that you may remember time, but that you might forget it now and then for a moment…

William Faulkner

History of Mausoleums

The term mausoleum comes from King Mausolus, an ancient king who ruled in Asia Minor near the Mediterranean Sea.  He died in 350 B.C., and his wife had him buried in a temple-like structure that sat above the ground on a massive, stone platform. Columns that towered over the lands around the building surrounded it. King Mausolus’ burial structure is considered the first of its kind, thus the name mausoleum. It was also named one of the seven wonders of the Ancient World.

Since the first mausoleum, many have chosen to bury their loved ones in above-ground structures. Often they are very elaborate. The pyramids in Egypt are considered a diverse and grandiose type of mausoleum. In the 1st century A.D., the Roman Emperor Hadrian had a large cylindrical mausoleum, called the Castel Sant’Angelo, built in Rome for him and his family. It was used well into the 2nd century A.D. for other Roman leaders. Another very famous mausoleum is the beautiful Taj Mahal in India, built by emperor Shah Jahan in the 17th century for his favorite wife. A more recent mausoleum was built in Moscow for Lenin, in the early 20th century. Today, mausoleums are not as grand as King Mausolus’, but they are still built and used in cemeteries around the world. 

If you bury a loved one in a mausoleum, his or her remains are above ground where they will remain dry.  Mausoleums can be private or public, and, though it may seem contradictory, they are considered to be more ecologically friendly because they save on space and land usage.

If you want to entomb your loved one’s body in a mausoleum, a burial in a mausoleum is called an entombment, or if you want to entomb the ashes of a loved one, you have a number of options from which to choose.

Types of Mausoleums

1. Family

A family mausoleum or a private mausoleum became popular in the United States in the late 1800’s. Many are found in New Orleans because of its low level, which makes in ground interment difficult.  They can built not only to house the remains of the person who has recently died, but they can also be built to house the remains of any other family member when he or she passes as well as extended family members. Those who select a family mausoleum tend to desire a special closeness with their family members, the living and the dead. It stands permanently as the symbol of the particular family for generations to come.  Great-great grandchildren can visit the cemetery where great-great grandparents are buried in a family mausoleum and see not only where the grandparents of three generations ago were buried, but they can also see the names and dates of the aunts, uncles, and cousins. A whole generation of family is there, safe and protected within the walls of the family tomb.

2. Public

Many cemeteries have what are called public or community mausoleums where many unrelated families can decide to bury the remains of their deceased. For those who want an above ground burial, but find a family mausoleum to be far too expensive, a community mausoleum is a great option. Families share the burden of the cost, thus making a mausoleum an affordable, above ground, burial option.

Often cemeteries have more than one public mausoleum. Some can hold the remains of thousands of people; however, this does not mean the mausoleum is cold and impersonal. Amenities such as vases for flowers and private sitting areas for individual families to use are part of the design as well as beautiful architectural touches like stained glass windows, skylights and/or glass walls. Sometimes, music is piped in to help create a peaceful setting for all who come to visit.

3. Garden

Garden Mausoleums do not have indoor spaces; therefore, they are much less expensive than the indoor mausoleum. If you live in a cold climate, you will save on heating bills because there is nothing to heat. This outdoor space has crypts for caskets but usually the space is used for showing urns and/or memorabilia of the loved ones. Some garden mausoleums are decorated with stained glass windows, statues or sculptures and/or other forms of artwork.  Surrounded by beautiful gardens, these mausoleums offer a sense of calmness and peace for the loved ones who rest there and for those who visit.

4. Columbariums

Though it does not hold caskets and bodies, the Columbarium can be categorized as a mausoleum because it holds the remains of cremated bodies. Its walls have niches or recesses, and each holds an urn or container of ashes. Each niche is marked by a bronze plaque, with the name of the person interred in the urn. However, some cemeteries do not have a separate structure just for the remains of those cremated; therefore, the existing mausoleum will have a section, apart from the area for the crypts, especially identified for cremated remains.

5. Lawn Crypts

A lawn crypt is an underground mausoleum with vaults for pre-installed caskets. However, you can have an above ground lawn crypt with spaces for two people. Supposedly, lawn crypts benefits are twofold: an in-ground burial and a mausoleum entombment. They are more affordable than the above ground mausoleums but they still hold some of the tradition of a mausoleum. This is the best option for a family that wants an in-ground burial but is on a budget.  The family can be economical without giving up any of the things that really matter to them when it comes to the burial of their loved one. Lawn crypts are a greener choice also because they are environmentally friendly and they save space.

6. Sarcophagus

A sarcophagus mausoleum is half underground and half above ground. Typically this type of structure has no doors or windows. Defined as a stone coffin, the sarcophagus holds burials in a concrete structure that is below ground, with one crypt that you can see above ground.

7. Crypts

The dictionary defines crypt as a chamber or vault, usually beneath the main floor of a church, used for burial. Crypts are also used in mausoleums, and they are the chambers within the mausoleum that hold the remains of the deceased.  The size of the mausoleum determines the number of crypts it can house. Each crypt usually holds one casket.

Crypts within a Mausoleum

Though there are different ways to build a mausoleum, whatever you choose will fall into three categories: Indoor, Outdoor or Garden. Within the structure you select, you can then choose what type of crypt you prefer.

Types of Mausoleum Crypts

1. Single crypt

The single crypt is the most common one and it contains a casket that holds the remains of one person only.

2. Side by side crypt

The side-by-side crypts contain two caskets that hold the remains of two people, and they are positioned next to each other horizontally. Each can have its own marker or share a single marker.

3. Companion crypt or end-to-end crypt

A companion crypt holds two caskets, placed end-to-end (double depth), so it only takes up the space of one casket. It shares a marker and can be used for married couples or any two people the family decides can share the crypt.

4. Westminster family crypts

The family or Westminster crypt can hold as many bodies as you decide upon. The space can be arranged with end-to-end crypts, stacked on top of one another, or side-by-side stacked on top of each other. Depending on what you decide, each person can have an individual marker or you can decide on a single, group marker.

Costs of Crypts

The prices of crypts depend on whether the mausoleum is an indoor one, an outdoor one or a private one. They also depend on the location of the crypt within the mausoleum, including their height from the floor. Finally, the price depends on the type of crypt purchased.

Mausoleum crypts usually cost more than buying an in-ground burial plot; however, since the crypts do not need an outer burial container, which increases the cost of a ground burial, they end up costing about the same. 

A one-crypt mausoleum runs between $3,500.00 and $10,000. This crypt usually has four-inch hidden walls and six-inch open floors. The single entombment mausoleum is the one usually found in cemeteries as well as in churches.

A double crypt mausoleum runs between $9,500 and $22,000. It also has the four-inch hidden walls and six-inch open floors but the crypts will be side by side so two can be entombed.

A quad or four-crypt mausoleum runs between $20,000 and $32,000. The larger the mausoleum and the more crypts it can hold, the more expensive it will be.

A garden crypt mausoleum is outdoors and has no building so it is much less expensive. The single crypt runs between $3,000 and $6,000. The double crypt runs between $4,500 and $9,500.

Private mausoleums are very expensive. The costs can run anywhere from $20,000 to $500,000. Only family members share the private mausoleum. 

A cremation niche is much less expensive than a crypt. Similar to a mausoleum, the walls have recessed areas where the urn is permanently placed. This choice allows the family of the person cremated to have place to visit their loved one. These are also available in single, double or family space. The usual size of a cremation niche is 9”x9”x9” and runs between $800 and $3,000.

On average, a crypt runs about $4,000, but one can be found for a low as $2,000. Because prices vary so much, it is important to do the research and comparison shop so you can get the best deal for the money you can afford to pay.

Extra Costs

If you choose to build a mausoleum, you will have costs beyond the structure.

You will have to purchase a lot, which can run about $8,000.

The niche where the body of the deceased is placed before it is put in the mausoleum can cost up to $7,500.

Engraving can cost up to $1,000. Remember the style, the quality and the length of the engraving affect the cost. The fancier and longer the message, the more it will cost.

You must allow for the expense of purchasing a casket, having the body embalmed and paying for a funeral service, which can add up to $15,000 or more.

If the body is cremated, you still have to pay for the cremation as well as the urn for the remains. Though this is much less expensive than the traditional embalming and burial option, it is an extra cost beyond building a structure.

How to Save Money on a Mausoleum

Though it may sound a bit strange, you can actually purchase a mausoleum on line and it can be delivered to the cemetery of your choice. This option is much less costly than having one built.

Comparison-shopping is always the best way to save money. Be sure to look at more than one cemetery in your area and find out the prices. Remember, a price list should be available so you will know what costs what. Once you have the information, negotiate for the best price.

Though crypts do cost more than an in ground burial plot, you do save money because you do not have to pay for the services of the cemetery to dig the grave nor do you have to pay for the outer container needed for an in ground burial.

Advantages of a Mausoleum

  • Mausoleums are cleaner and dryer than underground burials.
  • Mausoleums provide an option for people who do not want to be cremated.
  • Mausoleums offer an option for those who worry about being buried underground.
  • Mausoleums save on land usage. In ground burials require a plot for each body, its size determined by the cemetery guidelines.
  • Folks who are concerned about the environment may find the mausoleum more to their taste because they save on land usage.
  • Mausoleums are actually quite common these days and most cemeteries have options for a single one, a companion one or a family one. They also have large, public ones where many people are buried.
  • Because the mausoleum is like a house, you can have music piped in, benches or seating areas created and decorations such as sculptures to adorn the interior and make it more peaceful when you come to visit your loved one.
  • Rather than purchase a family burial plot, a family can purchase a mausoleum to be built on one plot and bury the whole family there.
  • Weather does not affect a burial in a mausoleum. If it is winter and the ground is frozen, it does not matter because all is done above ground.

Disadvantages of a Mausoleum

  • Often price is the biggest disadvantage of a mausoleum.
  • Like any building things can happen, so you will need to check your structure.
  • Over the years, the water and weatherproofing may weaken and cause damage to the caskets on the inside.
  • Because gas builds up from decomposition, it is important to make sure the casket includes a sealer or burper, which releases the built up gas. Without such a device it could happen that the gas accumulates, causing the body to burst, which of course damages the body and the casket as well as the other caskets and bodies in the mausoleum.


We are all going to die, and we all have different needs regarding how we want our body or the body of a loved one to be disposed of. Mausoleums have been used for above-ground burial for 1000’s of years, and they continue to be a burial option.

Whether the area you live in requires above-ground burial, like New Orleans, or you desire for a type of immortality within a house that can stand the test of time to be seen by future generations or you are ecologically concerned about the future and want to save land usage, a mausoleum is an answer to consider.

Prices vary as do types, but if you do your research, you can find an option within your budget. So, do not count out a mausoleum because it seems too grandiose or outdated because that is far from the truth.

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Cremation Staff

We are a group of cremation and funeral professionals seeking to share our knowledge and help save you some time, some energy, and hopefully some money.

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