Pele was a footballer like no other, and his final resting place will be exceptional, too: a large replica stadium complete with artificial turf inside the world’s tallest vertical cemetery.
The Brazilian football great, whose funeral was held Tuesday after his death last week at age 82, bought his mausoleum 19 years ago inside the Memorial Ecumenical Cemetery, a veritable high-rise that holds the Guinness World Record for the tallest cemetery on earth.
Located in Santos, the southeastern port city where “The King” played most of his storied career, the cemetery has a total area of 40,000 square meters (430,000 square feet) and features a 24-hour restaurant, a chapel, an automobile museum, a small fish pond and an aviary.
Located on the first floor, Pele’s 200-square-meter mausoleum will be decorated like a football stadium, with his embalmed body resting in a coffin displayed in the middle of the artificial turf, surrounded by gilded images from his glory days, a spokesman for the cemetery said.
Edson Arantes do Nascimento – Pele’s real name – had spoken openly about his planned resting place, saying in 2003 that he liked the spot because it “doesn’t look like a cemetery” and gave him a feeling of “spiritual peace and tranquility.”
The striking white building was conceived by late Argentine businessman Jose Salomon Altstut, who broke ground on the project in 1983.
Officially inaugurated in 1991, it has a total of 18,000 interment spaces, and became the first vertical cemetery in the world to provide space for mausoleums.
The cemetery’s website says clients are allowed to “create a decorated space” in their mausoleums, which can even include en-suite rest areas for mourners.
Pele’s late father, aunt, brother and daughter are already interred in the same place, as well as Antonio Wilson Honorio, nicknamed “Coutinho,” his teammate at Santos FC in the 1960s.
The cemetery sits a stone’s throw from Santos’s Vila Belmiro stadium, where Pele first dazzled the world as a 15-year-old phenom, on his way to scoring a record 1,281 career goals and becoming the only player in history to win three World Cups.