In tenth- and eleventh-century Western Europe, tombs were primarily housed in church institutions; either local churches, monastic churches, or cathedral churches. Depending on the status of the person buried, these tombs could be placed in prominent positions within the church itself, or be included in the church-yard cemetery or in a more out-of-the-way part of the church. If a person founded a church, their tomb could be given a position of honour in the nave of the church in front of the altar, or in the crypt of the church behind or underneath the altar.

The bodies of powerful figures like kings, queens, nobles or bishops were often buried in a sarcophagus, a stone coffin. This could be made of sandstone, marble, or another stone material, and could be engraved with an inscription commemorating the person it contained. Tombs from the earlier part of this period were often very simply decorated or left plain, while later eleventh-century tombs could feature more decoration, such as bronze grave portraits laid onto the top of the tomb.