As soccer devotees step onto the artificial turf and gaze at the fan photos adorning the walls, they’ll find themselves standing in the newly-opened mausoleum of soccer legend Pele, located in the city of Santos, Brazil. The final resting place of the iconic Brazilian striker is nestled within the 14-story Memorial Necropole Ecumenica, reputed as the world’s tallest cemetery. The inaugural public visitation commenced with an event graced by Pele’s son, Edinho, and a host of his most ardent fans.
The mausoleum is a true testament to Pele’s illustrious football career. Brass statues of a jovial Pele, attired in soccer shorts, welcome visitors at the entrance. The ambiance of a soccer stadium is recreated within the dimly lit interior as the walls, festooned with fans’ photos, surround the artificial turf. Prominently displayed are the three jerseys that marked the turning point in the life of Edson Arantes do Nascimento, representing Santos, the Brazilian national soccer team, and the New York Cosmos.
At the mausoleum’s heart lies Pele’s majestic marble tomb, gilded with golden details and flanked by mirror columns. The vertical edges mimic the World Cup trophy while the lower portion immortalizes several of Pele’s sporting moments. The lid of the sarcophagus, embellished with a grand cross, bears Pele’s name and his birth (October 23, 1940) and death (December 29, 2022) dates. Above the tomb, a brightly lit rectangular opening in the ceiling mirrors the sky, seemingly offering direct access to paradise.
Photographs of fans, a tribute to Pele’s unwavering commitment to his followers, stir profound emotions. “Pele never refused to pose for a photo. Even if it delayed him from catching a plane,” reminisced Cosmo Damiao Cid, a founder of the Torcida Jovem, a group of fans supporting Santos since 1969. Visitors can pay their respects from 9 am to noon and from 2-6 pm, with prior registration on the cemetery’s website, as entrance is limited to 60 individuals per day.
Situated just under half a mile from Vila Belmiro Stadium, where Pele’s prowess shone on the field for Santos, the Memorial Necropole Ecumenica was established in 1991 by Argentine businessman Pepe Altstut. This vertical cemetery, home to 14,000 burial vaults and standing nearly 350 feet high, was where Pele, having retired from soccer, secured a funeral plot two decades ago. The necropolis also interred Pele’s father Joao Ramos do Nascimento (“Dondinho”) and his brother Jair, making it a truly familial resting place.