… what an enhancement of the power of the living there was in this hold over the dead.… And for the Church, what a marvelous instrument of power!… Purgatory brought the Church not only new spiritual power but also, to put it bluntly, considerable profit.
Throughout history, human communities have converted the dead into sources of living power by grafting symbolic structures onto them and their places of interment. The impact of these structures on society, however, indicates that the “dead” are understood as more than physical remains. The dead can be imagined also as memories, spirits, or deities, and the physical or spiritual locations where they reside are essential to the vitality of the symbolism. When the dead are symbolized and carefully integrated into cultural and/or religious systems, they can become a potent source of political power for those who control the meaning of the dead and their physical remains. For this reason, the dead—especially their tombs and remains—have historically been a valuable commodity in the religious and cultural marketplace.