The word derives from the
Mausoleum at Halicarnassus (near modern-day
Turkey), the grave of King
Caria, whose large tomb was one of the
Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.
Historically, mausolea were, and still may be, large and impressive constructions for a deceased leader or other person of importance. However, smaller mausolea soon became popular with the
nobility in many countries. In the
Roman Empire, these were often ranged in
necropoles or along roadsides: the
via Appia Antica retains the ruins of many private mausolea for miles outside
Rome. However, when Christianity became dominant, mausoleums were out of use.
Later, mausolea became particularly popular in
Europe and its
colonies during the
early modern and
modern periods. A single mausoleum may be permanently sealed. A mausoleum encloses a burial chamber either wholly above ground or within a
burial vault below the superstructure. This contains the body or bodies, probably within
sarcophagi or interment niches. Modern mausolea may also act as
columbaria (a type of mausoleum for cremated remains) with additional cinerary urn niches. Mausolea may be located in a
churchyard or on private land.
United States, the term may be used for a
burial vault below a larger facility, such as a church. The
Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels in
Los Angeles, California, for example, has 6,000 sepulchral and cinerary urn spaces for interments in the lower level of the building. It is known as the "crypt mausoleum". In Europe, these underground vaults are sometimes called