Types of Mausoleums

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Private mausoleum surrounded by treesImage Source: Pixabay

Across the globe and throughout history, people of all cultures have devised elaborate ways to honor their dearly departed loved ones. From Europe to India to Egypt, one common method has been through the use of a mausoleum. There are all kinds of mausoleums, but each serves the same purpose: to memorialize and house the remains of a person who has passed away.

What is a Mausoleum?

Loosely defined, all types of mausoleums fall under the following description: a freestanding building built to enclose a burial chamber or interment space. They have crypts, which are compartments that hold caskets. They may also contain columbaria to house cremains.

When someone is buried in a mausoleum, they are said to be ‘entombed.’ Their remains will typically be held above ground, except in the case of a few kinds of mausoleums described below, and tend to be popular because the area will always remind dry, unlike a standard burial plot out in the open. Families choose mausoleums for both casket entombments and cremated remains. However they are constructed and whatever types of remains they hold, mausoleums are considered to be slightly more ecologically friendly than in-ground burials because they save on space. Mausoleums can be found in cemeteries, on church land, or on private land.

Famous Mausoleums

Some of the most famous places on earth are mausoleums: the Taj Mahal in India, Castel Sant’Angelo in Rome (the Mausoleum of Hadrian), and Lenin’s Mausoleum in Moscow count as some of the most recognizable and highly-visited mausoleums in the world. Even the Great Pyramids in Egypt are among the diverse types of mausoleums found in the world. Also worth note is that the Mausoleum of Halicarnassus is one of the Seven Wonders of the World.

But not all mausoleums are as grand as these. Indeed, almost every cemetery in America has either private or public mausoleums, or both.

Types of Mausoleums

If you’re currently considering different burial options and have been wondering about the kinds of mausoleums available to you, here’s your guide.

Family Mausoleums

New Orleans mausoleumImage Source: Pixabay

A family mausoleum or private mausoleum serves to preserve the memory of not just someone who has died, but the entire extended family as well. People who choose a family mausoleum typically seek to feel a deep sense of closeness with their family members, both living and deceased. The family mausoleum serves to uphold continuity of the family name and its traditions and allows for a permanent spot for future generations to visit and reflect upon their heritage.

Family mausoleums became popular in the United States beginning in the Victorian era (the late 1800s) and are very prevalent in places like New Orleans, where in-ground burials are difficult due to low elevation.

Public Mausoleums

Many cemeteries in the United States have public mausoleums in which families may choose to entomb their loved ones’ remains. Sometimes called ‘community mausoleums,’ these public types of mausoleums offer a cost-sharing benefit over private or family mausoleums, which tend to be cost prohibitive for some families.

Some of the larger cemeteries have multiple mausoleums, each with a different character and style. Some can hold as many as several thousand entombments. They typically offer families useful and thoughtful amenities such as brass plaques that denote the loved one’s faith, vases for flowers, private seating areas for families to gather, and uplifting architectural touches like skylights and beautiful glass walls to the outdoors.

Garden Mausoleums

A garden mausoleum is the opposite of an indoor mausoleum described above. Since it doesn’t include an indoor space or a chapel that needs to be heated, it’s a less expensive option for cemeteries located in cold climates. The space offers crypts for caskets but is most commonly a place to display urns and remembrances. Although not an indoor facility, some garden mausoleums include stained glass windows, statues, and works of art. These add a sense of peace and tranquility to the already beautiful garden oasis that surrounds these mausoleums.

Companion Crypts

Within a mausoleum that holds the remains of several people, there can be any one of several different configurations for the crypts. A common style is to have single crypts, each of which holds one casket.

Companion crypts, on the other hand, hold two caskets, placed end-to-end so they only take up the space of one casket. They share a marker and make an ideal choice for married couples.


Though technically not a mausoleum, a columbarium serves a similar function. It too is a free-standing structure in a cemetery, but instead of sheltering crypts for caskets, it provides wall spaces for cremated remains. The wall spaces are called “niches,” each of which holds an urn containing cremains.

Urns are placed inside a columbarium niche, which is typically marked by a bronze plaque showing the name of the person whose remains are interred there. Sometimes mausoleums contain a section for a columbarium within the same walls.

Lawn Crypts

Lawn crypts are underground mausoleums. They have vaults that hold pre-installed caskets. There are also above-ground lawn crypts that allow space for two people and which remain dry.

Lawn crypts are said to offer the benefits of both an in-ground burial and a mausoleum entombment: they are cost-effective yet still traditional. So for families who desire a traditional, in-ground burial for their loved one, but would also like to economize without compromise, lawn crypts can be a good choice. Likewise, families who wish to choose a greener option might also consider lawn crypts, as they are considered to be space-savers.

Sarcophagus Mausoleums

These types of mausoleums are half underground and half above ground. There are typically no doors or windows, hence the name ‘sarcophagus.’ A sarcophagus is defined as a stone coffin, much like those used in Ancient Egypt. A Sarcophagus mausoleum holds the burials in a concrete structure that’s below ground, with just one crypt that’s visible above ground.

For More Info on the Different Kinds of Mausoleums

To find out more about choosing a mausoleum for you or your family, download our free planning guide. There’s no obligation and you get instant access to useful information.