Room for Silence

Columbarium |ˌkäləmˈbe(ə)rēəm|

noun ( pl. baria – |-ˈbe(ə)rēə|)

• a stone wall or walk within a garden for burial of funeral urns, esp. attached to a church.

In gathering information for a columbarium project, I’ve been visiting churchyards in my neck of the woods that have columbariums. It’s been a rewarding and eye-opening experience. There is much comfort to be drawn from the traditional practice of being buried in a churchyard.  Today churches no longer have the space for this ritual, so a columbarium that contains only ashes is a more practical and affordable solution. St Matthew’s Parish in Bedford, NY has a large and lovely cemetery and a relatively new columbarium.  It is an exceptional example of a successful, contemplative space, which both honors and respects loved ones and members of this church community.

Located towards the rear of the cemetery, it is a quiet and meditative space. The plant palette is composed of various shades of green. Large, overarching maples surround the area and provide a sense of enclosure. The muted tones of the trees’ bark are mirrored in the stones of the low dry stone walls that define the space.

One feels there is room for silence here, and the very nature of the circle invites contemplation. The second tiers of the circle’s two sides create a labyrinth and evoke a desire to walk through and between the walls. Large open entrances invite the visitor to stroll within. The whole space radiates a simple eloquence and imparts a quiet, restrained feeling that is so critical to the reflective feeling that is required of the space.

St. Matthew’s created niches in the flagstones at the base of the wall. Inscriptions are on these stones, and there is room for two people’s ashes.


About christinedarnelldesignstudio

Christine Darnell Design Studio is a landscape and garden design studio in Chester, CT. Imaginative plant combinations characterize the work with an artist’s eye towards texture and color. A strong commitment to environmentally considerate design runs through the practice, the support of local nurseries, and guidance towards the most environmentally sustainable materials and products. Adjunct Professor, Horticulture Dept. of Naugatuck Valley Community College, Waterbury, CT , Wetlands Commissioner for the Town of Chester, Vice President, APLD, Connecticut Chapter.
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