If you think you’ve never seen a mausoleum, you’re probably incorrect. Chances are you have seen images of the Great Pyramids of Giza. You probably have also seen photographs of the Taj Mahal. These famous landmarks are also great examples of large-scale mausoleums.
Jump ahead to these sections:
- What Is a Mausoleum Entombment?
- Different Types of Mausoleums
- Average Cost of a Mausoleum
- Pros and Cons of Mausoleums
- Common Mausoleum Rules
- Is a Mausoleum Burial Right for You?
Mausoleums aren’t only available for Egyptian kings or an emperor’s wife. Anyone can choose to be entombed in a mausoleum. Here’s what you need to know about this form of burial.
A mausoleum is a freestanding structure that is built to enclose a crypt. Crypts are compartments that hold caskets. So a mausoleum is a structure that usually holds multiple bodies lying in caskets.
Since the remains of the dead aren’t buried in a mausoleum, it’s proper to say that the body is entombed instead of buried. Most mausoleums are found in cemeteries, but you may also find some near religious buildings and on private land.
Here are some of the types of mausoleums that you may consider when planning for your or your loved one’s funeral. They vary in size and cost.
If you’ve visited the unique cemeteries in New Orleans, you are familiar with family mausoleums. These somewhat small structures were initially built to entomb members of the same family. This process is necessary due to New Orleans's geography.
The water table in this area, and in other parts of the world, makes it safer to entomb the deceased rather than bury them.
Since not every family can afford to build a mausoleum, there are public ones available as well. These are typically indoor structures that allow visitors to come in to meditate or pray while viewing the sealed crypt of their loved one. Some of the larger mausoleums can hold thousands of bodies.
Garden mausoleums are also open to the public for interment, but they do not have an indoor space where mourners can gather and reflect. The door of each crypt opens to the outdoors.
Lawn crypts or in-ground mausoleums
Although mausoleums are typically above-ground structures, a lawn crypt is buried. The reason it is called a crypt is that many bodies are entombed within that single structure.
A columbarium is a place to store urns containing the remains of loved ones. This above-ground structure is similar to mausoleums but holds urns instead of caskets.
Private mausoleums can be extremely expensive. They start around $25,000 for an outdoor mausoleum, but they can cost hundreds of thousands for walk-in varieties.
The average cost to entomb a body in a public mausoleum is about $4,000. The price varies and can be as low as $2,000 or as high as $10,000.
Garden mausoleums are typically less expensive than indoor, public mausoleums. Indoor mausoleums often include benches and skylights, and they are climate-controlled. Visitors to garden mausoleums have to brave the elements, much like visitors to a cemetery.
The cost of entombing a body also depends upon where the crypt is located within the structure. Upper-level vaults, which can’t be touched from floor level, are less expensive than lower crypts.
For additional costs, you can also purchase crypts that hold multiple numbers of bodies. Sometimes married couples or families choose this form of entombment.
There are additional costs to entombing a loved one in a mausoleum. You may need to pay entombment fees, which means the staff will open the crypt, place the casket inside, and reseal the crypt.
You will also need to pay for the plaque and its engraving, as well as the cost of having it placed on the front of the crypt.
There are plenty of other costs associated with laying a loved one to rest. Besides paying for a casket and flowers, you also need to pay the embalming costs. You will also be responsible for the fees associated with having a service. These costs will be paid whether you choose to bury your loved ones or entomb them in a mausoleum.
Why would you choose entombment over burial? Here are some things to consider.
- Stay drier. Entombment in a mausoleum is drier than burial. If a body is entombed in a mausoleum, it does not come into contact with water the same way a buried body will.
- Sit above ground. Some people who are planning their funeral may not like the idea of being put under the ground. Mausoleums provide this above-ground option.
- Protection from weather. If you purchase a crypt in an indoor mausoleum for your loved one, you will be able to visit the site, rain or shine.
- Feeling of prestige. Some people feel that being entombed inside a beautiful structure is more prestigious than being buried underground.
- Save space. Since crypts in a mausoleum are stacked on top of each other, this process saves space and resources compared to a traditional burial. If this idea appeals to you, you may want to consider other green burial options.
- Easy to access. In cold climates, opening and closing a burial site is extremely difficult. Mausoleums can be accessed no matter the temperature.
- A necessity in some environments. New Orleans isn’t the only place in North America with a low water table. If you live in an area that has a low elevation and is too wet to bury a casket, you may have no other option than to buy crypt space in a mausoleum.
- Feel peaceful. Indoor mausoleums can be comfortable, peaceful places to visit. You may hear softly-playing music as you sit comfortably on a bench reflecting on the life of your loved one.
- Costly. Entombing a body in a mausoleum is typically more expensive than burial. Both of these options are usually more expensive than cremation. The location of the mausoleum is a major determining factor in how much it costs.
- Foul odors. Even bodies that do not come in contact with groundwater will eventually decompose. This process can cause an unpleasant odor that is not noticed when a body is buried in a cemetery plot.
- Decomposition. Again, bodies that are entombed in a mausoleum still decompose. This process produces gases, and those gases can cause explosions. Exploding caskets and leakage at the site of the crypt have caused survivors’ emotional trauma in the past.
- Deteriorating structures. Most mausoleums aren’t built to the standards of the Taj Mahal or the Great Pyramids of Giza. They will eventually crumble, as will the crypts inside of the structure.
There are so many decisions to make when a loved one dies. Hopefully, your loved one made their preferences around burial known while they were still able. Making those hard choices in a time of grief can be overwhelming.
If you have decided to entomb your loved one, first look through your family member’s papers to see if they have already purchased a crypt in a nearby mausoleum. If no paperwork is found indicating this purchase, you will need to look for a mausoleum with available crypts near you.
The next part of the process is the same, no matter the type of burial you choose. You will need to purchase a casket for a crypt or an urn for a columbarium.
Besides picking out funeral flowers, guest books, and funeral program covers, you will also need to choose the location of the services. Some indoor mausoleums have small chapels that can be used for services. Or you can choose to have the wake or funeral at another location and have the body transported to the mausoleum later.
When it is time to entomb the body, the casket is placed within the crypt, and the vault is sealed.
Just as cemeteries have rules on flower placement and visiting hours, so do mausoleums. Make sure you’re aware of these rules before you entomb your loved one. Just as you don’t own the land on top of a burial plot, you don’t own the crypt either.
Even if you go to the expense of building a family mausoleum, you’ll need to follow the rules if it’s built within the boundaries of a cemetery.
Although some mausoleums are outdoor structures, they may post specific visiting hours. Some mausoleums are only open during daylight hours, and others have set hours no matter the time of year.
There may also be regulations regarding flower placement and other tributes that are placed in front of your loved one’s crypt.
Perhaps the idea of eventually being entombed in a mausoleum appeals to you because you don’t like the thought of being buried. Maybe you are choosing entombment because you feel it is the more eco-friendly option. It could be that you are forced to select entombment based on where you live.
No matter your reasons, make sure you visit the mausoleum before purchasing a crypt, whether it is for you or your loved one. Make sure there is no sign of leakage or strong smells. Make sure you understand the additional fees that will need to be paid at the time of death. Finally, look for facilities that are well-maintained and attractive. All of these details will make laying you to rest in the mausoleum an easier and more comforting process for your friends and family.