Memorial Garden – Information about the columbaria

A columbarium (plural: “columbaria” or “columbariums” are both acceptable) is a multi-unit structure that houses urns containing cremated human remains (also known as “cremains”). A niche refers to the individual units in a columbarium. A niche typically contains one or more urns. “Inurnment” refers to putting a person’s ashes into a vessel, but is sometimes also used to refer to the action of placing an urn into a niche or another resting place. “Interment” has traditionally meant putting a body or cremains into the earth, but is also sometimes used to refer to the placement of an urn into a niche in a structure above ground.

Stainless Steel Niches

For our columbaria, there are 60 niches in the straight wall, and 16 niches in the curved seating wall. When you sign a niche agreement and pay the niche fee or a deposit, you will receive a niche map like the one below, with the unavailable niches marked. You may choose from the remaining niches, or if no specific niche is chosen, the lowest available niche number will be assigned.

Niche map diagram, for choosing your niche…

Niche Map for the Presbyterian Church Columbaria – downloadable pdf

We purchased columbarium wall inserts from Architarium. The niches are made of 100% stainless steel, a waterproof material that is welded to form strong seams impervious to water. Stainless steel is extremely durable and highly resistant to the affects of the environment. The design of the columbarium niches and frame incorporates multiple moisture prevention and dissipation features. As one example, the interior access panel has a built-in niche seal. Minimal maintenance is needed: the columbarium may be cleaned off using a water hose. The maintenance of the garden and columbaria is the church’s responsibility.

This photo, taken during installation, shows how the niches look without their access doors and face plates attached.

This photo, taken during installation, shows how the niches look without their access panels and face plates attached. The niche in the top right corner has an access panel attached, but no granite face plate covering it.

Columbarium wall inserts, niche dimensions, & urns that will fit…

The niches are joined together via a frame into a preassembled section that can be inserted into a masonry wall. The straight columbarium has four preassembled sections, while the curved seat wall columbarium has three preassembled sections and an additional single niche.

X-ray model image showing how the stainless steel inserts fit into each columbarium. (This was from an earlier model, which is why the number of inserts is different.)

Neighboring niches do not share any common walls; each niche is a self-contained, discrete unit.

Model image showing stainless steel niche inserts and brick pier (columbarium capstone not shown)

Model of the same corner niche and its neighbors, from the back… note that the niches do not share any adjacent walls.

View of the curved columbarium from the top, during installation - with the access doors and face plates attached to the niches.

View of the curved columbarium from the top, during installation – with the access doors and face plates attached to the niches.

The face plates of the niches are 12” x 12”. However, the interior dimensions of each niche in both the straight and curved columbaria are 10 ¾” H x 11 ¼” W x 11 1/8” D. A variety of different shapes and sizes of urns may fit into a niche. Some urn dimensions will allow two urns to fit into the same niche.

Fitting Two Urns into One Niche:

If you wish to fit two urns into a niche, you would likely be safe in choosing two rectangular prisms with the following maximum dimensions:

height: 10 1/2″
width: 5 1/2″
depth: 11″

If you prefer round urns, then the maximum dimensions would be:

height: 10 1/2″
diameter: 7 3/4″

Please see the images below for some examples. (Click on an image to enlarge it.) Note that all face plates and niche doors are absent in these model examples, so these are not views we would ever see in reality; only one face plate and niche door would be removed to place an urn in a single niche.

 

Face Plate, Niche Door, and Security

Each niche secures its urns with two covers: an exterior granite face plate and an interior stainless steel niche door (also referred to as an “access panel”). Only one niche is uncovered with the removal of a face plate during an inurnment. The exterior face place is attached with a hidden proprietary mechanism, and is removed with a tool solely in possession of the church. No hardware is visible from the exterior. The interior niche door is attached with tamper-resistant hardware for additional protection of cremated ashes. Access to a niche may be arranged during church office hours.

Model showing the face plate + niche door of a single niche removed to reveal the niche interior

Your purchase will include the initial lettering on the 12″ x 12″ lightweight granite face plate. You may have this done at any time. Any changes or corrections in the future will be paid for by you or your heirs.

Engraved face plate – sample from Architarium; ours will be different in terms of color and layout – see details below

The faceplate inscription will include the name(s), birth year and death year. Names will include both uppercase and lowercase letters. A surname used as a heading may be composed entirely of uppercase letters. The size of letters and uniformity of style will be determined by the engraver. The font used, like the ones shown above and below, will be a simple one without serifs. You may arrange names and dates to your liking, or use one of the examples below:

Maiden names, full middle names, and different last names are permissible. However, the length of the name may necessitate tighter condensation of text on the name lines.

Below is a sample of the granite we have chosen, which pulls in the reddish-orange colors of both the columbarium bricks and the darker memorial bricks, as well as the browns of the pavers. Since the granite is nearly uniformly dark, the engraved names and dates will be lightened, as in the sample above from Architarium, to stand out against the background.

Dakota Mahogany Granite sample for face plates

After the engraved face plate is returned to the church, the blank face plate covering the niche will be removed, along with the attached niche door. The engraved face plate and niche door will be put into place after the urn is inserted. The church office will arrange for the placement of the urn in the niche informally or following the funeral, memorial, or commital service as per your wishes. Arrangements for formal committal services are to be made between the Pastor and the family.

Architarium video explaining the process and showing the opening of a niche, placement of an urn, and closing of the niche

The following images are from this video, during times 1:08-1:20.

Removing the face plate and niche door…

Open niche

Inserting a single large urn

Reattaching the niche door and face plate…

The face plate shown here is not engraved, as this is from Architarium’s advertising video; in our case, though, the new face plate would already have been engraved.

The lovely granite capstones for our niches were provided and expertly installed by MCM Natural Stone, of Rochester, NY. The colors in this “Ivory Fantasy” granite coordinate beautifully with our site: the salmon recalls the reddish-orange hue of the masonry, the browns and grays match the patio pavers and the stones in the Sanctuary wall, the darkest accents harmonize with the Dakota Mahogany face plates, and the ivory itself corresponds to the limestone of the steps and the concrete window sills.

Here is the completed straight columbarium with its Ivory Fantasy granite capstone from MCM Natural Stone. The Dakota Mahogany granite face plates are attached for the bottom two rows, but here you can see what the naked stainless steel access panels look like, without the granite face plates covering them, in the top row.

Here is the completed straight columbarium with its Ivory Fantasy granite capstone from MCM Natural Stone. The Dakota Mahogany granite face plates are attached for the bottom two rows of niches, but here you can see what the naked stainless steel access panels look like, without the granite face plates covering them, in the top row.

Here is the completed curved columbarium, with the Ivory Fantasy granite capstone by MCM Natural Stone, and the niches with their Dakota Mahogany granite face plates, made by Architarium.

Here is the completed curved columbarium bench, with the Ivory Fantasy granite capstone by MCM Natural Stone, and the niches with their Dakota Mahogany granite face plates, by Architarium.