Recorded in many base spelling forms including Papa, Lo Papa, Papotto (Italian), Pope, Pape, & Lepope (English and French), Pabst, Babst, Baff, Paff, Pfaff, & Pfaffe (German), as well as diminutives including Pfaffel, Papen and Paffen (German), and compounds such as the Greek Papachristphorou, which translates literally as 'The father of the bearer of Christ' (!), this interesting surname is a European status surname. It derives from the ecclesiastical title for head of the Roman Catholic Church, the (Latin) word "Papa", meaning a bishop or pope.In the early Christian 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 bishops, and finally only to the bishop of Rome. In the Eastern Church it has continued to be used of all priests. As a surname it probably originated as a nickname for a person with an austere ecclesiastical appearance, or for an actor who had played the part of the pope in a medieval pageant or play. Ealy examples of the surname recording taken from authentic surving rolls and charters include the intriguing one of "Agnes le Pope" in Cambridgeshire, England. This was dated 1230, in the rolls known as "Liber Memorandorum Ecclesie de Bernewelle", whilst in Germany in 1287, Wernherus Pfaffe was recorded in the charters of Lorch, state of Hessian-Nassau. 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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