Recorded in many spelling forms including Pope, Pape, & Lepope (English and French), Pabst, Babst, Baff, Paff, Pfaff, & Pfaffe (German),Papez (Czech), Papiez and Papierz (Polish), Papis (Flemish), De Paepe (Dutch), Pappi (Finnish), and Papis (Flemish), as well as several diminutives including Pfaffel, Papen and Paffen (German), this very interesting surname is medieval and European. It derives from the Latin word 'Papa', and is used as the ecclesiastical title for the Pope as the father or head of the Roman Catholic church. In the early church Papa was used as a title of respect for clergy of every rank, but in the Western church it gradually came to be restricted to the bishops and cardinals, and finally only to the bishop of Rome. In the Eastern Church it has continued to be used of all priests. As a surname given that priests have been celibate since the 10th century, it probably originated as a nickname for a person with an austere ecclesiastical appearance, or possibly for an actor, one who had played the part of the pope in the famous travelling pageants of the Middle Ages. Early examples of the surname recording taken from authentic surving rolls and charters include the intriguing one of "Agnes le Pope" of Cambridge, in England. This was dated 1230, in the rolls known as "Liber Memorandorum ecclesie de Bernewelle". In Germany Konrad Pabst was recorded at Lepzig in 1242, and Wernherus Pfaffe at Lorch, in the state of Hessian-Nassau in 1287. Throughout the centuries, with changing languages, dialects, and spellings, surnames in every country have continued to "develop", often leading to astonishing variants of the original spelling.
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