The Mausolea & Monuments Trust

What is a mausoleum?

What is a mausoleum? A mausoleum is a house of the dead. Larger than tombs, these buildings are free-standing roofed structures erected to receive coffins. They take their name from one of the Wonders of the Ancient World, the vast tomb of King Mausolus of Halicarnassus in Asia Minor. Most British mausolea date from the 18th and 19th centuries. Symbols of dynastic pride, pious respect and love, they stand in their hundreds in churchyards, cemeteries and parks. Many of Britain’s finest architects were involved in their design. Neo-classical, Egyptian or Gothic, they form a varied, emotionally charged, and irreplaceable part of the built heritage.

When is a mausoleum not a mausoleum? This is a ticklish question. The MMT has defined mausolea as 'house[s] for the dead...freestandinding roofed structures erected to receive coffins'. But despite this we have included some funerary chapels attached to churches in our gazetteer. Furthermore, the gazetteer also contains a number of buildings that are really no more than porches, small above-ground structures, sheltering steps leading down to a vault below.

The reason for our catholicism is that one type of mausoleum shades into another. In many cases a freestanding mausoleum, built in the form of a chapel with a vault below, differs little from a funerary chapel attached to a church. All that has happened is that, as the church crypt has become too crowded for further burials, the chapel has moved away from the church. With regard to vaults in churchyards or cemeteries, the deciding factor with regard to inclusion in the gazetteer has been the existence of an above-ground structure with a door; we have excluded those which are merely sealed with a slab.

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