This French, Italian, Spanish, Portugese, Czech, Polish, Russian, German and English surname was originally from the Middle English given name MICHAEL. This is ultimately from the Hebrew MICHA-EL 'Who is like God?', a name borne by various minor biblical characters as well as by an archangel, the protector of Israel (Dan. 10:13). In Christian tradition, MICHAEL was regarded as the warrior archangel, conqueror of Satan, and the given name was correspondingly popular throughout Europe, especially in knightly and military families. The name has numerous variants which include MICHEL, MICHEAU, MIGUEL, MICHAL, CHONET, CHONILLON, MICHIELETTI, MICHALKE, MICHELK, MIKO, MICHALEC and CHELAZZI, to name but a few. It was not until the 10th century that modern hereditary surnames first developed, and the use of fixed names spread, first to France, and then England, then to Germany and all of Europe. In these parts of Europe, the individual man was becoming more important, commerce was increasing and the exact identification of each man was becoming a necessity. Even today however, the Church does not recognise surnames. Baptisms and marriages are performed through use of the Christian name alone. Thus hereditary names as we know them today developed gradually during the 11th to the 15th century in the various European countries. Notable members of the name include Claude MICHEL (1738-1814) the French sculptor. Perhaps the greatest of the Napoleonic era, he is famous for his small terracotta figures of classical subjects, such as fauns, satyrs and nymphs. Francisque MICHEL (1809-87) was the French antiquary, born in Lyon, He was professor at Bordeaux from 1839, and earned a reputation by researches in Norman history. In the Middle Ages heraldry came into use as a practical matter. It originated in the devices used to distinguish the armoured warriors in tournament and war, and was also placed on seals as marks of identity. As far as records show, true heraldry began in the middle of the 12th century, and appeared almost simultaneously in several countries of Western Europe.
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