Winter vaults are a cemetery solution for frozen ground. When a loved one dies in winter and plans have been made for in ground interment, but the ground is too frozen to prepare a permanent grave, what happens? While this doesn’t happen as frequently as it used in places that are packed with snow and ice because modern machinery can better work with the constraints of the seasons, it does happen.
Many cemeteries have receiving vaults designed to temporarily store dead bodies in the winter months. That combined with more advanced embalming and refrigeration techniques make it possible for your loved ones to temporarily remain safely at rest while a final site can be prepared.
Geographically, these vaults were used in northern Europe, norther North America and southern South American where winter conditions are harshest. The ability to store bodies until the weather was warmer was especially important for those families who had not yet decided where to lay their beloved or had not yet secured the funds necessary to do so. In some instances, bodies could also be stored there during any season while mausoleums or underground crypts were being constructed.
Many Bodies At Once
Historically, for the many lives that were lost due to epidemics and natural disasters, these storage sites have been quite useful because they had enough space for many bodies. It should be noted, however, that some cemeteries did not allow usage of receiving vaults for those with contagious diseases.
Earlier forms of winter vaults were chambers dug out of hillsides. Those dug into the earth were covered with dirt with doors that could be locked to prevent body snatching. Later versions of the vaults were above-ground with shelves for coffins, and in some cases, were connected to a chapel for funeral services.
Receiving vaults are not as prevalent as they used to be. Not only because of technological solutions but also because more people are choosing to have cremations. Remains stored in urns are often kept in indoors niches and columbaria.