When a loved one’s ashes are returned to the family after cremation, there are many options for what they can do with them. A common option is to inter the cremated remains in a niche or in a columbarium. Learn more about this final resting place below.
What is a niche?
A niche is a permanent, above-ground location that houses a cremation urn containing cremated remains. It is common for niches to have features that memorialize the deceased person, such as an inscription, picture, or small personal mementos.
Niches are typically located in a mausoleum, cemetery, or chapel. A niche can be found on its own or in the arrangement of niches, called a columbarium.
What is a columbarium?
A columbarium is a structure that contains niches for storing or displaying urns. The structure is typically a wall, room, or building made from brick or concrete. Within the structure is an arrangement of niches to hold the cremated remains of several individuals. Columbariums are usually located in cemeteries, churches, crypts, crematoriums, etc. They can also be part of other burial monuments, such as within a mausoleum.
Columbariums have been around for thousands of years, originating in the early Roman empire as a burial alternative for lower and middle-class citizens. However, burials became the standard practice during the reign of the Roman emperor Hadrian, and the use of columbariums was discontinued. They did not become commonplace again until the 20th century.
The name “columbarium” has Latin roots. It was derived from the Latin word “columba” (dove) and the suffix “arium” (place for). It resembles a structure used to house doves and pigeons, so it was given the name “columbarium,” which means “dovecote.”
Niche and columbarium options
Niches and columbarium options vary depending on the price, location, and wishes of the deceased person’s family. However, when choosing this as a final resting space, here are some considerations.
Niches come in a variety of types and styles. However, the most common niche types are single niches, double or companion niches, and family niches.
A standard single niche is typically 9 inches cubed (22 cm cubed) or up to 12 inches cubed (30 cm cubed). It is designed to store one urn and may include space for small mementos or souvenirs. Double and family niches are larger to accommodate more than one urn. Double niches have room for two urns and are a common option for couples. Family niches are large enough to hold four or more urns.
Niches also commonly come in three variations: granite-front, bronze-front, and glass-front. Crystal and marble may also be an option.
The niche is sealed, and the urn is not typically visible with bronze-front and granite-front types. In contrast, glass-front niches visibly display the urn and other features (e.g., pictures).
The bronze-front niche has a similar function to a headstone. It can be customized and inscribed with information about the deceased. Adding an inscription is more challenging with granite-front niches, but a bronze plaque can be added for that purpose. Plaques can also be added to glass-front niches to provide additional information about the deceased.
Columbariums are typically less customizable. Most families purchase an individual niche within a columbarium. Therefore, the style and design are decided by the owners or builders of the structure. Families can shop around for a preferred style, but the only way to have more say in the design would be to build a private or custom columbarium. However, this is likely to be an expensive and time-consuming endeavour.
How much do niches and columbariums cost?
The cost of a niche depends on factors such as type, location, and time of purchase and interment.
A single niche ranges from around $600 to over $5,000 CAD. Larger niches cost $950 to over $6,000 CAD. However, these will be able to store multiple urns, so the cost per urn will likely be lower.
Location is another major factor affecting the cost. For example, indoor niches are likely to be more expensive than outdoor niches because they are protected from weather conditions and vandalism. For this reason, glass-front niches are more costly since they are almost always found inside. This is because glass is more fragile than other niche variations. The arrangement of the niche should also be considered. For example, eye-level niches will cost more than those higher up or lower down.
The location of the columbarium or cemetery also impacts cost. For example, niches at a famous cemetery or in a heavily populated city or area will likely cost more because spaces are in higher demand.
Time of purchase and interment influence cost as well. Urns purchased before death are almost always cheaper and provide an opportunity to set up a payment plan instead of paying the price outright. Niches purchased after death can cost 20 to 25 per cent more. Interning on a busier day like a weekend will also increase the cost.
Niche costs in different areas
The best way to determine pricing is to contact cemeteries or columbarium locations in your area, as pricing can vary drastically in different Canadian cities. However, below are pricing examples sampled in July 2022 from cemeteries in five cities across the country.
Toronto Necropolis Cemetery
- Indoor Columbarium – Marble Fronted – Single – $5,780
- Indoor Columbarium – Marble Fronted – Double – $8,880
- Indoor Columbarium – Marble Fronted – Family – $15,190
Mount Pleasant Cemetery, Cremation, and Funeral Centre
- Outdoor Columbarium – Single – $8,780
- Outdoor Columbarium – Double – from $8,490 to $14,270
- Indoor Columbarium – Glass Fronted – Single – from $8,840.00 to $9,215
- Indoor Columbarium – Glass Fronted – Double. $12,910
Park Lawn Cemetery, Mausoleum and Cremation Centre
- Niches Outdoor Columbarium – Granite Fronted – from $4,000 to $5,000
- Indoor Columbarium – Glass Fronted – Single – from $3,500 to $14,800
Mountain View Cemetery
- Family Columbarium (customized) – $60,000
- Companion niche (bottom row) – $4,100
- Companion niche (second from bottom row) – $4,900
- Companion niche (upper rows) – $5,900
St. John’s Anglican Church
- Single niche – $2,600
- Double niche – $3,200
Cathedral Church of All Saints
- Single niche – $1,800
- Double niche – $2,500
Regina Cemetery & Riverside Memorial Park Cemetery
- Standard (up to 2 urns) – $4,140
- Premium (up to 2 urns) – $4,510
- Family (Col 3, Col 4) – $5,370
- Prairie Rose (Regina Cemetery) – $2,010
- Columbarium garden niche (2 urns) – upper rows – $5,910
- Columbarium garden niche (2 urns) – lower rows – $5,585
- Private Estate Columbarium (2 urns) – $8,665
- Double – $1,400
- Four urns – $1,600