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 Practices of burying the dead construct political as well as religious statements for the living.  The gigantic size of the pyramids expressed the eternal rule of Egyptís Pharaohs.  The harp, armor, drinking vessels and jewelry interred to honor the 7th century Saxon chief at Sutton Hoo, established his power and international wealth.  Thus burials often involved elaborate ceremonies and costly artistic production.  In the Middle Ages, common burials took place in church yards.  The more distinguished the deceased, the more likely that he or she would be interred within the church.  Royal families has their own designated sites - in England, Westminster Abbey, in France, the abbey of St.-Denis.  The closer to the altar, the more honored was the place.  At first the clergy claimed exclusive rights to burial in and near the choir.  As the Middle Ages drew to a close, the laity had the economic and political power to move into side chapels, and to even construct new chapels flanking the chancel.  The highly honored dead would be set in elaborate tombs, showing individuals, but very often the husband and wife, as if in repose.  Mourners were depicted on the sides of the tomb and angels placed on hovering arches.  For those of lesser distinction, brass plaques incised with the likeness of the deceased were set into marble tomb slabs and placed on the floors.  Invariably the inscriptions of the monuments asked not only for Godís mercy, but enjoined the living to offer prayers for the dead. 
For comprehensive treatment of concepts and practices in England, see Christopher Daniell, Death and Burial in Medieval England 1066-1550 ( New York: Routledge, 1998).