mausoleum (môsəlēˈəm) [key], a sepulchral structure or tomb, especially one of some size and architectural pretension, so called from the sepulcher of that name at Halicarnassus, Asia Minor, erected (c.352 B.C.) in memory of Mausolus of Caria. It was a magnificent white marble structure, considered by the ancients one of the Seven Wonders of the World.
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.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.