Presumably in the form of an Ionic peristyle set on a lofty and massive base that contained the sarcophagus, it was surmounted by a stepped pyramid on whose truncated apex was a marble quadriga, or four-horse chariot. It was richly decorated with sculpture, including works of Scopas and, quite probably, of Praxiteles. The building itself was demolished for the purpose of reusing the material, but some of the sculpture was recovered (1846) for the British Museum.
A notable Roman mausoleum (135-39) is that of Hadrian in Rome. It was originally a great circular drum sheathed in marble and perhaps covered by a conical stepped roof of masonry; its form, however, has been changed beyond recognition. It is now called Castel Sant' Angelo.
Under the Mughal emperors of India was built a remarkable series of domed mausoleums, many of them used as pleasure pavilions during the owner's lifetime. The most celebrated mausoleum, built by Shah Jahan at Agra, is known as the Taj Mahal. Notable mausoleums of modern times are those of Napoleon under the Dôme des Invalides, Paris; of President U. S. Grant on Riverside Drive, New York City; and of Lenin in Red Square, Moscow. In the United States the term mausoleum is used loosely to describe any sepulchral building above the surface of the ground.
A mausoleum (plural: mausolea) is an external free-standing building constructed as a monument enclosing the interment space or burial chamber of a deceased person or persons. A mausoleum may be considered a type of tomb or the tomb may be considered to be within the mausoleum. A Christian mausoleum sometimes includes a chapel.
The word derives from the Mausoleum of Maussollos (near modern-day Bodrum in Turkey), the grave of King Mausollos, the Persian satrap of 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 gentry and nobility in many countries. In the Roman Empire, these were often ranged in necropoleis or along roadsides: the via Appia Antica retains the ruins of many private mausolea for miles outside Rome. However, the practice fell out of use when Christianity became dominant.
Later, mausolea became particularly popular in Europe and her colonies during the early modern and modern periods. These are usually small buildings with walls, a roof and sometimes a door for additional interments or visitor access. 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 cemetery, a churchyard or on private land.
In the 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'.