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Santo Amaro Cemetery

The Santo Amaro cemetery, the largest public cemetery in the city of Recife, is located on Rua do Pombal in the Santo Amaro neighbourhood.

Santo Amaro Cemetery

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Last update: 09/05/2023

By: Semira Adler Vainsencher - Researcher at the Joaquim Nabuco Foundation - Master in Psychology

The Santo Amaro cemetery, the largest public cemetery in the city of Recife, is located on Rua do Pombal in the Santo Amaro neighbourhood.

Its construction was started in the government of Francisco do Rego Barros and its inauguration took place on 1 March 1851, with the name of Cemitério do Bom Jesus da Redenção de Santo Amaro das Salinas [Cemetery of the Good Jesus of the Redemption of Saint Amaro of Salinas]. The cemetery has an octagonal Gothic-style chapel, designed by Mamede Ferreira, which was erected in the centre of the large plot of land. Internally, paintings by Rinaldo Lessa can be seen. Four tombstones summarise the story of that chapel:

The Municipality of Recife commissioned it in 1853.
... 1855, according to civil engineer José Mamede Alves Ferreira’s design.
Reopened and improved under the administration of the Hon. Dr Esmeraldino Olympio de Torres Bandeira, Mayor of the City of Recife. 16 June 1899.
Restored under the administration of Hon. Dr Francisco da Costa Maia, mayor of the City, 1930.

One of the most visited tombs of Santo Amaro cemetery is that of the Girl-with-No-Name. It is always covered with flowers, ex-votos, jars and candles. In it, it reads: Girl-with-No-Name. Suffered on earth, but as reward you went to heaven.

The mausoleum of Joaquim Nabuco is the most valuable of all: it is an artistic work by sculptor Giovanni Nicolini, a professor in Rome, and made of Carrara marble. The work depicts the most important facet in the life of the famous abolitionist: the liberation of slaves in Brazil. It features some former slaves who carry the symbolic sarcophagus of Joaquim Nabuco above their heads. In front of the monument is the bust of the abolitionist. Beside it is a sculpture of a woman, symbolising history, decorating the pedestal of his bust with roses, upon which can be read: Joaquim Aurélio Nabuco de Araujo. Born 19 August 1849. Died 17 January 1910.

The base of the Nabuco pedestal, where there is a wreath, has written on it: To Joaquim Nabuco, the commander, officers and trim of “Minas Gerais”. Washington, 14-3-1916.

And on the back of the abolitionist’s mausoleum reads: Homage of the State of Pernambuco to its beloved son, the Redeemer of the slave race in Brazil.

Various stately mausoleums can be found also in the Santo Amaro cemetery. That of Governor Manuel Antonio Pereira Borba, better known as Manuel Borba, has a bronze woman with tower on her head and a large lion at her feet. On the mausoleum is a phrase that has become famous: Pernambuco will not let itself be humiliated. And his effigy, with the following inscription:

Citizens: when you wish to advise your leaders, encourage your fellow citizens and educate your children, you may point to them the example that was Manuel Borba – probity and character – loyalty – civic bravery. MCMCCCII. [sic]

There are even more mausoleums to admire: that of the Drummond family (with a marble shield over a small hourglass with a skull and a scythe); the Tomb of the four busts (a work of art, all in marble, belonging to the Miguel José Alves family, representing four siblings: a man with his hands on his chest and three women crying around him); that of Joaquim Nunes Machado (a small marble column with Doric capital, with a sealed jar partially covered by a blanket); that of Antônio Peregrino Maciel Monteiro, the 2nd Baron of Itamaracá (marble, adorned with flowers, wreaths and angels); that of journalist and poet Paulo Arruda (with four twin columns separated at the top, and a marble book, open on the pedestal with an extensive text); that of painter and poet Vicente do Rego Monteiro (a marble high-relief of a woman praying with a dog at her side); that of Governor Estácio de Albuquerque Coimbra (with a large statue of Jesus in bronze between the statues of a woman and a worker); and many others.

The sepulchre of maestro Nelson Ferreira, however, could not be simpler: 21-12-76.

One of the mausoleums draws public attention with its very unusual name:

Here rests Homem Bom [Good Man] da Cunha Souto Maior (1850 – 1903).

The tomb of poet José Izidoro Martins Junior (1860 – 1904) is also interesting. It contains an elegant Corinthian column adorned with garlands and seven marble books with the titles of the teacher’s works:

Estilhaços [Splinters]/ Visões de Hoje [Visions of Today]/ Retalhos [Shreds]/ Tela Polycroma [Polychromic Screen]/ Verdadeiros Vôos [True Flights]/ Poesia Scientifica [Scientific Poetry]/ Fragmentos Jurídico-filosoficos [Legal-philosophic Fragments]/ Historia do Direito [History of Law]/ Hist. do Direito Nacional [History of the National Law]/ Soberania e Acre [Sovereignty and Acre].

When in Santo Amaro cemetery, people always want to visit the so-called the tomb of the dog: the sepulchre of Newton Sabóia Lins Petit (1909 – 1971). It features statues of angels and a girl, in marble, and a small plaster dog lying down. More interesting, however, are the famous verses written on his final resting place:

Pela estrada da vida, subi morros, [On the road of life, I climbed hills,]
Desci ladeiras e enfrentei perigos; [I descended slopes and faced dangers;]
entre os amigos, encontrei cachorros, [among friends, I found dogs]
e entre os cachorros descobri amigos. [and among dogs I found friends.]




Recife, 21 July 2003.


sources consulted

FRANCA, Rubem. Monumentos do Recife: estátuas e bustos, igrejas e prédios, placas e inscrições históricas do Recife. Recife: Secretaria de Educação e Cultura, 1977.

how to quote this text

VAINSENCHER, Semira Adler. Cemitério de Santo Amaro. In: Pesquisa Escolar. Recife: Fundação Joaquim Nabuco, 2003. Available at:https: Accessed: month day year. (Exemple.: Aug. 6, 2020.)