This Italian and French surname of PIER was a baptismal name meaning 'the son of PETER'. The name was extremely popular throughout Christian Europe in the Middle Ages, as it had been bestowed by Christ as a byname on the apostle Simon bar Jonah, the brother of Andrew. The name was chosen for its symbolic significance, and is a translation of the Aramaic 'kefa' meaning a rock. St. PETER is regarded as the foundling father of the Christian Church in view of Christ's comment 'Thou art PETER and upon this rock I will build my Church'. In Christian Germany in the 14th century it was the most frequent given name. In England the vernacular form of PIERO, PIERS was usual at the time when surnames were being assumed. The name has numerous variant spellings which include PETER, PETRE, PEDRO, PEIDRO, PEET, PEAT, PEADIE, PITOLLI, PERULLI, and POSSE, to name but a few. A notable member of the name was Francesca Della PIERO (1420-1402) the Italian painter born in the provincial town of Borgo San Sepolcro. By 1442 he was the town councillor at Borgo. Although he was overshadowed at the time by his contemporaries, during this century his work has become a favourite from this period. His major work is a series of frescoes illustrating 'The Legend of the True Cross' in the choir of San Francesco at Arezzo, painted in 1452-66. An unfinished 'Nativity' in the London National Gallery shows some Flemish influence. French, or rather Norman French, was the language of the aristocracy and the upper classes in England at the time fixed surnames were being developed, it is therefore not surprising that many of our well-known family names are derived from French words. Originally only Christian or personal names were used, and although a few came into being during the 10th century, surnames were not widely used until much later, when people began to realize the prestige of having a second name. In the Middle Ages the Herald (old French herault) was an officer whose duty it was to proclaim war or peace, carry challenges to battle and messages between sovereigns; nowadays war or peace is still proclaimed by the heralds, but their chief duty as court functionaries is to superintend state ceremonies, such as coronations, installations, and to grant arms. Edward III (1327-1377) appointed two heraldic kings-at-arms for south and north, England in 1340. The English College of Heralds was incorporated by Richard III in 1483-84.
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