The stunning Canberra building hidden in Woden Cemetery: mausoleum undergoes $2.5m extension

The stunning Canberra building hidden in Woden Cemetery: mausoleum undergoes $2.5m extension

It's arguably one of Canberra's most stunning buildings but many people do not know what the Christ the Redeemer Mausoleum is or where it hides.

The light-filled marble and granite building tucked away in the green surrounds of Woden Cemetery is strong enough to withstand an earthquake.

It's also the resting place of hundreds of Canberrans, mostly Italian Catholic, who have died since it opened in 2001.

Demand for a space inside the building was so great it has had a $2.5 million extension, with 272 crypts added and, for the first time, a number of columbariums to house ashes.

Builder Alf Dimarco, Canberra Cemeteries chair Diane Kargas and CEO Hamish Horne.

Builder Alf Dimarco, Canberra Cemeteries chair Diane Kargas and CEO Hamish Horne.Credit:Graham Tidy

Minister for Territory and Municipal Services Shane Rattenbury officially launched the completed extension on Wednesday.

It was blessed by Father Julian Wellspring​ who described the mausoleum as "a place of rest and hope" – "may buried bodies here sleep in [God's] peace".

Mr Rattenbury said 25 of the new crypts had already sold since the "seamless" extension was completed.

"Particularly for members of the Catholic communities, the mausoleum is a very important space – it's a strong cultural tradition," he said.

"One of the things the cemeteries authority particularly pursues is to provide a range of options ... to make sure all members of the Canberra community can commemorate a death in a way that is suitable to them and their culture and their religious background."

Canberra Cemeteries CEO Hamish Horne said the extension brought the mausoleum's total number of crypts to 576.

He said there was pent-up demand for spaces when the original building was built more than a decade ago.

"There's been a steady rate over the years. A couple years ago we had a small increase in the rate so we had to get this [extension] organised fairly quickly," he said.

"With changing cultures and changing generations the demand for mausoleums across the world is actually gradually diminishing.

"The Catholic faith only regarded cremation as a viable option in 1960s but the addition of the columbarium crypts [to house ashes] recognises that need and the changing wishes of the community."

Frank Dimarco and Sons carried out the mighty task of extending the heavy building, which has doubled the length of the mausoleum.

Alf Dimarco, who has worked with his late father's business for more than four decades, said his company sourced materials from as far as Mediterranean Europe and India.

The company has imported, cut and installed the gleaming marble and sourced similarly coloured granite to tie the old and new parts of the mausoleum together.

The addition of extra glass was just as important to ensure natural light streamed through its thick walls.

"When you walk in it doesn't give you that eerie feeling," he said.

"The secret too is to make sure you have plenty of abundance of light, natural light."

Mr Rattenbury said the extension of the building reflected growing demand for burial spaces and crematoriums at Woden Cemetery, which was closed in 1979 and reopened two decades later to meet demand.

"We've now got a children's garden here, we've got a liquidambar garden for the interment of ashes, the mausoleum has been extended and also there's now a proposal to extend Woden Cemetery to provide capacity for another 10 to 15 years," he said.

"Being in such a central place in Canberra, and being such beautiful gardens, Woden Cemetery is a very popular place to commemorate people."

Emma Kelly is Canberra Times reporter.

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