This Italian surname of VESCIO which comes via the Latin EPISKOPOS meant an overseer from EPI (on, over) and SKOPEIN (to look). The Greek word was adopted early in the Christian era as a title for an overseer of a local community of Christians and has yielded variant spellings in every European language which include EVESQUE, LEVECQUE, VESCHI, VISCO, VISPO, BISCHOF, PISCHOF, PISCOT, BISSCHOP, and BISPO to name but a few. The name came to be applied as a surname for a variety of reasons, among them service in the household of a bishop, supposed resemblance in bearing or appearance to a bishop, and as 'boy bishop' on St. Nicholas day. 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. The Church played a very important role in Central Italian heraldry and many Italian families who derived their titles from popes incorporated elements of the papal insignia, notably the papal tiara and the crossed keys, on their Coats of Arms. As in the rest of Europe, the turbulent history of Italy in the Middle Ages is reflected in its heraldry. Traces remain from the successive invasions of the Germans, French, Spanish and Austrians. Certain characteristics, such as the use of horse-shaped shields which were put on the foreheads of horses during tournaments, remain uniquely Italian. Over the centuries, most people in Europe have accepted their surname as a fact of life, as irrevocable as an act of God. However much the individual may have liked or disliked the surname, they were stuck with it, and people rarely changed them by personal choice. A more common form of variation was in fact involuntary, when an official change was made, in other words, a clerical error. The lion depicted in the arms is the noblest of all wild beasts which is made to be the emblem of strength and valour, and is on that account the most frequently borne in Coat-Armour.
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