With the remains of around 100 billion dead people currently buried or otherwise stored on this planet, it’s no surprise that we’re running out of space for final resting places. The phrase “six feet under” just isn’t sustainable anymore, so architects are now looking to the sky as an alternative to sprawling ground cemeteries. High-rise cemeteries are becoming increasingly popular all over the world, and the Memorial Necrópole Ecumênica, in Santos, Brazil, is the highest of them all.
When Pepe Altstut inaugurated the Memorial Necrópole Ecumênica cemetery, in 1983, it was only a very small building, but the demand for above-ground tombs with a view was so great that he kept expanding until his cemetery became the tallest in the world. Today, it measures 108 meters tall, features 25,000 storing units (tombs, if you will), several wake rooms, crypts, mausoleums, a peacock garden with its own small waterfall and even a chapel and snack bar on the roof.
While few regular cemeteries can be considered tourist attractions in their own right, the Memorial Necrópole Ecumênica is actually one of the most visited landmarks in Santos, and acknowledged as such by the local tourism board. Altstut himself admits that his cemetery is incredibly popular with tourists, and attributes it to the structure’s notoriety as the tallest cemetery on Earth. People from all over the world reportedly come to Santos to see the necropolis where people pay big money for tombs with a view.
But securing a resting place with a nice view – like towards the neighboring mountain comes at a premium. The Memorial Necrópole Ecumênica is made up of several wings, and depending on the view they offer, the tombs are priced differently. Why a nice view is important for someone resting in this place is so important is a tough question to answer, but that’s not stopping people from paying big bucks to make sure they get to enjoy it forever. Tombs at the highest stories are also considerably more expensive then the rest, because as this article mentions, someone resting there would be “108 meters closer to heaven than a typical underground grave.” That makes sense…
Each of the 32 floors has rows of numbered blocks with up to 150 tombs, all of which are equipped with a ventilation system and can accommodate up to six bodies. Decomposition takes around three years, at the end of which the family of the deceased can have the body exhumed and the remains moved to a different part of the necropolis.
You’re probably wondering why anyone would want to move the remains of their loved-ones, especially if they have a unit with a view, right? Well, that’s because a three-year rental of a burial plot costs 10,000 to 35,000 Brazilian reals (between $5,900 and $21,000), depending on what part of the Memorial Necrópole Ecumênica it is located in, and prolonging the rental period can become quite expensive after a few years. But, for those who can afford it, the vertical cemetery offers even more expensive options, like separate family burial places complete with memorial rooms, for 174,000 reals ($54,000).
But while the Memorial Necrópole Ecumênica may be the tallest vertical cemetery in the world, according to the Guinness Book of Records, it’s definitely not the only one of its kind. In Taiwan, for example, storing the remains of loved ones in high-rise pagoda-like necropolis is an old tradition, and other large such cemeteries are being built in countries like Israel and India.