Cemetery culture: Mausoleums, crypts, tombs and burials

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Are there any horror lovers out there who possess a grave interest? And yes, we really are talking about an interest in mausoleums, crypts, tombs and burials. Perhaps it’s only in your devilish nature to wonder how mankind has chosen to enter the afterlife. While this realm of the dead may have been decided due to religious upbringing or the deceased may have just lived under a cloud of superstition, but regardless of how or why they were laid to rest, your restless soul can’t help but wonder the history of cemetery culture. Blame it on the horror movies, don’t you think an eerie wander between tombstones is just as immortal, tranquil and intriguing as visiting your everyday museum?

What’s the difference between a mausoleum, crypt and a tomb?

While many of your favorite horror movies probably contain a scene with an unearthly mention or a shocking visualization of a mausoleum, crypt or tomb, strangely enough, you’re probably too petrified by the gruesome, moonlit sequence to notice where or what the corpse is reanimating in. So, let’s break down the grave distinction between these three types of burial plots.

A mausoleum is an aboveground structure that was built to hold the remains of a deceased person and sometimes their entire family. This burial formation supposedly dates back to Queen Artemisia II of Caria — a Greek naval commander from 353 BC — who had a special structure constructed to house the remains of her husband/brother, King Mausolus, who inspired the origin of the name mausoleum.

A crypt is a burial spot that has been built to hold a casket in a concrete or stone chamber. Often times they are placed beneath the floors or within the walls of a church, chapel or cathedral, but crypts can also be housed within a mausoleum. This burial formation dates back as early as 600 A.D. — one of the most famous ones being the St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome.

A tomb is a container that holds the remains of the deceased. There is no particular size to the enclosed compartment and it is usually dependent on the burial method of choice — a casket, an urn or a burial vault within a crypt or mausoleum. A tomb can be simple or elaborate.

Burial tourist attractions

While you might not be the type of tourist to explore the notions of the afterlife intentionally, there are many famous historical monuments around the world that are actually burials. After all, mausoleums were built to be impressive structures — classical, gothic, Egyptian or modern style.

  • The tomb of Cyrus: This important monument houses Cyrus, ruler of 6th century Persia, in Pasargadae, Iran.
  • Lenin Mausoleum: This burial plot in Moscow, Russia houses Vladimir Lenin, the founder of the Russian Communist Party (Bolsheviks).
  • Taj Mahal: Located in Agra, India, the Taj Mahal was built to honor the favorite wife of emperor Shah Jahan.
  • Terracotta Army: Housed in Xian, China, this mausoleum houses the first Emperor of the Qin Dynasty. His tomb, though unfound, contains 8,000 soldiers, 130 chariots and 520 horses.

Can you name five horror movies that tell a ghastly tale involving a tomb or a cemetery? Tell us in the comments section below.

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