This Italian surname of PIELA is of various origins. It was a nickname for a tall thin man, derived from the Latin PFEIL and it may also have been a topographic name for someone who lived by a stake fence or in a property defended by one. The name may also have applied as an occupational name for a builder of such fences and was also an occupational name for a maker of arrows or a smith. The smith was one of the most important men in medieval Europe. He served both the lord and the peasants. It was his duty to shoe the lord's horses, mend and sharpen his plows and make all the metal objects that were required. For these duties he would receive certain honours such as charcoal and wood from the lord's forest and the right to have his land ploughed by the lord's plows. He also did work for the serfs in the manor, from whom he would receive payment. Henry II of England in 1181, ordered every holder of land worth X10 a year, to provide himself with a coat of mail, a helmet, a shield and a lance, and many smiths were required to make these articles. The smith, as a worker in metals was important in every country, and many surnames in America have been translated from SMITH from many different languages. The name has variant spellings which include PIELE, PEILE, PFAHLER, PFAHL, PAHLMANN and PAHLKE. 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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