This surname of MASSARELLI is a Provencal topographic or status name for the holder of an isolated farmstead. The name was derived from the word MAS. The Italian form of the name was used as a technical term of feudalism for a tenant farmer; in southern Italy the word MASSARA was also used of a steward managing lands on behalf of an absentee landlord. Surnames derived from placenames are divided into two broad categories; topographic names and habitation names. Topographic names are derived from general descriptive references to someone who lived near a physical feature such as an oak tree, a hill, a stream or a church. Habitation names are derived from pre-existing names denoting towns, villages and farmsteads. Other classes of local names include those derived from the names of rivers, individual houses with signs on them, regions and whole countries. The name is also spelt MASO, MAZIE, MAZERAND, MAZERANT, MASIERO, MASIERI, MASSOERO, MASSAI, AMMASSARI and MASSAROTTO, to name but a few. A notable member of the name was MASO di BANCO (1325-50) the Italian painter who is recorded as working in Florence between 1343 and 1350. Although few works are ascribed to him, he was held in great esteem by later Italian artists, due to his realistic style in the manner of his famous predecessor Giotto. His best known work is a fresco in southern Croce, Florence, of the legend of St. Silvestor who quelled a dragon which, by its foul breath, had terrorized Rome. 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.
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