This surname of GRATE was of French origin, from the given name GRATIANUS, a name meaning welcome and pleasing. The name was borne by an early saint who was martyred at Amiens, during the reign of the Roman Emperor Diocletian. It was rendered in early documents in the Latin form of Gratianus. Augustas Gratianus (359-83) was the Roman Emperor from 375, the son of Valentinian. On his father's death he was elevated to the throne, with his half-brother Valentinian II. Gaul, Spain and Britain fell to Gratian's share, but as his brother was only four years old he virtually ruled the whole western empire, and in 378 on the death of his uncle, he suddenly became sovereign also of the eastern empire. Eventually he was persecuted by pagans and heretics. He was eventually overthrown and was murdered at Lyon. Franciscus Gratianus (12th century) was an Italian jurist and Carmaldulensian monk of Bologna. Between 1139 and 1150 he compiled the collection of cannon law known as the Decretum Gratiani, which became the text for all studies of canon law. The earliest French hereditary surnames are found in the 12th century, at more or less the same time as they arose in England, but they are by no means common before the 13th century, and it was not until the 15th century that they stabilized to any great extent; before then a surname might be handed down for two or three generations, but then abandoned in favour of another. In the south, many French surnames have come in from Italy over the centuries, and in Northern France, Germanic influence can often be detected. In many parts of central and western Europe, hereditary surnames began to become fixed at around the 12th century, and have developed and changed slowly over the years. As society became more complex, and such matters as the management of tenure, and in particular the collection of taxes were delegated to special functionaries, it became imperative to distinguish a more complex system of nomenclature to differentiate one individual from another. The associated coat of arms are recorded in Rietstaps Armorial General. Registered at Normandy. (Gratien).
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