Washington National Cathedral currently has two locations for interment: the West Crypt Columbarium on the lower level of the Cathedral, and the Garth Memorial Garden. Both facilities allow members of the Cathedral community and Cathedral supporters to find a place of rest and comfort upon entering Eternal Life.
The West Crypt Columbarium, entered from the west side of the Chapel of St. Joseph of Arimathea, has both columbarium niches and full body burial vaults available for interment with the name of the deceased and years of birth and death carved on closure stone tablets.
The columbarium niches may accommodate up to six urns, based on industry-standard urn dimensions. No items other than the urns are allowed in the niches.
Full body burial vaults are limited to one body. Once applications have been approved, the applicant will be asked to select a niche/vault. Epitaphs are limited to name and years of birth and death only.
Interment in the Columbarium is an automatic privilege for the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church (and spouse); the Episcopal Bishop of Washington (and spouse); and the Dean of Washington National Cathedral (and spouse).
Visiting the Columbarium
- Visitors to the West Crypt Columbarium should contact the Cathedral Worship Office (202-537-6217) for admittance.
- Placement of flowers, candles, or any other ornamentation is not permitted in any of the interment facilities.
- Visitors wishing to arrange for memorial flowers on the St. Joseph’s Chapel altar should contact the Altar Guild directly at: 202-537-6215.
The Garth Memorial Garden, located on the Cathedral’s north side, is intended as a place of tranquility, peace and natural beauty. The Cathedral will be able to re-open the Garth to visitors and interments once repairs from the 2011 earthquake have been completed. Pending the Garth’s reopening, the Cathedral will place cremains intended for the Garth in a temporary niche in the West Crypt Columbarium.
The Garth features a peaceful fountain surrounded by a slate paving and bordered by plantings. Enclosed by a cloister, the Garth features benches for rest and meditation.
It is the policy of the Cathedral to inter cremains (ashes) directly into the earth (“earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust”) in biodegradable urns. We do not bury other urns or containers, nor do we use a columbarium with niches where urns may be kept.
All burials are treated in the same way, with equal reverence. In this way, our tradition of common prayer has a parallel in our tradition of common burial, conveying the sacred principle behind all of the ministries of the church – the equal dignity and worth of every human being.
During the service of committal, the officiant will place the biodegradable urn directly into the ground and then cover it with earth. There is no need for family members to purchase a special urn or vessel for this purpose. Memorial bronze plaques will be mounted on curved granite wall in the garden area and hold nameplates commemorating the full names and years of birth and death for those interred.
Visiting the Garth Memorial Garden
- The Garth Memorial Garden may be visited at any time (pending the completion of earthquake repairs).
- The placement of flowers, candles, or any other ornamentation is not permitted.
- Visitors wishing to arrange for memorial flowers on the Good Shepherd Chapel altar should contact the Altar Guild directly at: 202-537-6215.