columbarium
Posted: 19 June 2017 06:45 AM   [ Ignore ]
Moderator
Avatar
RankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  4338
Joined  2007-01-29

I assume some of the learned folk around here are already familiar with this word, but I just discovered it, and its meaning was so unexpected I thought I’d share it:

columbarium

plural columbaria \ˌkä-ləm-ˈber-ē-ə\

1:  a structure of vaults lined with recesses for cinerary urns

2:  a recess in a columbarium

[Latin, literally, dovecote, from columba dove]

I knew what the etymological meaning had to be, but would never have guessed the current one!

...And in fact that definition teaches me another new word, “cinerary,” referring to cremated ashes.

Profile
 
 
Posted: 19 June 2017 07:40 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
Moderator
RankRankRank
Total Posts:  316
Joined  2007-02-13

Columbaria are a thing for churches with limited space for graves.  The local Episcopal church has one.  My church (Lutheran, mixed between Germans and English, by which I mean Americans) considered the idea but it turns out that Germans have a cultural aversion to it.  My understanding is the objection was to the remains being above ground.  They would shudder at the idea.  The English half found this odd, but went along.  Instead we have a small plot where ashes are buried in biodegradable vessels.  We started at one corner and are gradually working our way through, with a single large marker to which small plaques are attached.  I don’t know what we will do when the space is filled.  My vote would be to go back to the beginning and repeat.  That is the whole point of the burial vessel being biodegradable.  But I don’t expect to being around at that point, except in biodegraded form, so that discussion isn’t my problem.

Profile
 
 
Posted: 19 June 2017 09:36 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
Moderator
Avatar
RankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  3384
Joined  2007-01-31

The Episcopal church in my town also has one.  I grew up (elsewhere) in a distinctly German Protestant tradition, and the first time I saw a columbarium was when I attended an Episcopal funeral a year or two ago.  No disrespect intended, but to me the columbarium was incongruously reminiscent of a bank of bus-station lockers.

Profile
 
 
Posted: 19 June 2017 10:11 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
Moderator
Avatar
RankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  2587
Joined  2007-02-19

The word is applied to more than sepulchres; one can also see it used in reference to an assemblage of niches for storing rolled-up books in ancient libraries. I recall seeing one at Qumran, by the Dead Sea, in the writing-room of the Essene settlement there. Or maybe it was at Massada: memory becomes clouded at this point. I’ve no idea whether the word in that sense was in ancient use, or was coined in modern times by archaeologists. I think, Dr. T., that the term could be applied, with no lack of respect and with equal justice, to an assemblage of luggage-lockers, or to any other similar construction.

I think the word “cinerary” is perfectly applicable to other things beside funeral ashes: any ashtray is a cinerary receptacle.  It’s the phrase “cinerary urn” which has the funereal associations (probably the world’s most famous cinerary urn is the Portland Vase)

(corrected typo)

Profile
 
 
Posted: 19 June 2017 11:01 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
Administrator
Avatar
RankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  6140
Joined  2007-01-03

I was familiar with the term, but never gave the origin any thought until now.

What surprises me is the recency of the term. It only dates to the mid 19th century.

Profile
 
 
   
 
 
‹‹ Losing heart      Taper ››