What Happens in a Mausoleum?

The Taj Mahal is an example of how large and ornate mausoleums can be.
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A mausoleum is a building that houses the dead above ground. Such a building can be large and ornate, like the Taj Mahal in India, or small and simple, like mausoleums in cemeteries. Mausoleums can be private, housing only one or a few bodies, or communal, housing as many bodies as space allows.

1 Crypts

Niches and crypts are separate compartments in a mausoleum that house individual bodies.
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Individual burial compartments in mausoleums are called crypts, which are used for the storage of caskets. Crypts can be single crypts for holding one body or double crypts for holding two. If a crypt is filled, it is marked with the name of the deceased. Flower vases, inscriptions, religious symbols and memorial emblems may also be attached to the front of the crypt depending on the family's wishes, cemetery regulations and available space.

2 Niches

Cremated remains are stored in urns and buried in mausoleum niches.
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Niches are compartments in mausoleums that house cremated remains. The ashes are stored in urns, which are called "columbaria" when used in mausoleums. Niches are much smaller than crypts. They can also have bronze and glass fronts. Glass-fronted niches allow for viewing of the columbaria. If a more standard marble front is chosen, the same emblems, memorial items and vases that can be applied to crypt fronts can be used on niche fronts as well.

3 Potential Benefits of Mausoleums

Even small, private mausoleums can have beautiful designs.
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Mausoleums are beautiful, long-standing memorials to the deceased. If well-maintained, they can be visited and used for generations. Mausoleums like the pyramids of Egypt, for instance, still stand as world wonders. Mausoleums also allow for the long-term entombment of cremated remains, which is not feasible for below-ground burials. If money is a concern, mausoleums designed to entomb many people from a family or community can keep down burial costs.

4 Potential Problems with Mausoleums

Though mausoleum burials are also marketed as being cleaner and drier than below-ground burials, these purported benefits do not reflect the realities of decomposition. Interred bodies can become bloated with gas or expel fluids that lead to explosions or leaks within the casket. Leaks and explosions can damage a mausoleum by creating cracks or eroding materials. These occurrences are not unique to mausoleums, but below-ground casket explosions aren't as noticeable or serious as above ground explosions.

June Mebei is a Virginia-based writer who earned her B.A. in English at Georgia State University. She began writing professionally in 2008, and has published narrative essays, editorial articles, short stories and poetry.