This Portugese, French and Italian surname of MAIO was a baptismal name and may have been bestowed on someone born or baptised in the month of May, or may have been used for a nickname for one with a sunny disposition or even of one who had some anecdotal connection with the month of May, such as owing a feudal obligation then. Nicknames usually originated as a by-name for someone by describing their appearance, personal disposition or character but which became handed down through the ages and did not apply to their descendants. The name was rendered in medieval documents in the Latin form MAIUS, from MAIA, a rather obscure goddess of fertility, whose name meant 'greatness'. The name is also spelt MAI, MEI, MEY, MAYO and MAY to name but a few. Angelo MAI (1782-1854) was the Italian prelate and antiquary, born in Schilpario in Lombardy. Educated to be a Jesuit, he became instead a secular priest in Milan, and keeper of the Ambrosian Library, where he discovered and edited MSS or fragments of several long-lost works. He was transferred to the Vatican Library in 1819, and edited a number of important ancient texts. He was made a cardinal in 1838. 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. Throughout all of Europe the wolf was one of the animals most revered in medieval times. Lycanthropy, the transformation of men into wolves, was widely believed in during the middle ages, and was often used in coat armour.
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