This Italian surname of MASSON was an occupational name for a stone-mason, originally rendered in the Old French MACON. The name has numerous variant spellings which include MASO, MASON, MACHON, LEMASON, MASSONE, MACO and MASSO. About the middle of the 12th century castles and mansions of the king and important nobles and cathedrals and churches were starting to be built by stone. Earlier wood had been used, and the castles were surrounded by ridges of earth and a wooden stockade was used for protection. Formidable castles were first constructed in stone by the Normans after the Conquest of England in 1066. Thus, the work of the mason, the builder of stone came to be an important craft, and the elaborate carving was a significant part of his work. Germany in the 14th century had more than ten thousand castles and strongholds throughout the country. A notable member of the name was MASO di BANCO (1325-50) the Italian painter who is recorded as working in Florence between 1343 and 1350. Although few works are ascribed to him, he was held in great esteem by later Italian artists, due to his realistic style in the manner of his famous predecessor Giotto. His best known work is a fresco in southern Croce, Florence, of the legend of St. Silvestor who quelled a dragon which, by its foul breath, had terrorized Rome. The origins of Italian surnames are not clear, and much work remains to be done on medieval Italian records. It seems that fixed bynames, in some cases hereditary, were in use in the Venetian Republic by the end of the 10th century. Central Italian heraldry has been much influenced by the church. Families deriving their titles from popes have incorporated papal insignia in their arms, notably the papal tiara and the crossed keys. The heraldry is reflected by the history of the country which has been used as a battlefield for successive German, French, Spanish and Austrian invaders. Italian heraldry has however developed certain characteristics shown by the use of horse-head shaped shields which were put on the foreheads of horses at tournaments. Crests are rare but when they do appear are quite ostentatious.
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