Of all the surnames which derive from the saints and disciples of the Christian church, 'Petros', of Greek origin, and meaning 'The rock' has provided the world with the greatest number of both given names and the later medieval surnames. In their different spellings, and there are known to be at least seven hundred variations ranging from Peter, Pieter, and Pierre, to patronymics such as Peterson, Peres, Peers, and the Armenian Bedrosian, to diminutives such as the Italian Perfilio, Perfili, Perretti and Perotti, the East European Poschel and Piotrek, and the Russian Petrenko, and Pietrusska. At least one form appears as a leading surname in every European country. At the foundation of the Christian movement, Christ chose the disciple Peter to be 'the rock' on which the church was to be founded. The name became very popular in Europe following the twelve 'crusades' of the early medieval period, when various kings sought to free the Holy Land. Thereafter the name spread to every country, replacing the original 'local' names. Early examples of the surname recording taken from authentic registers in Europe include Luke Petre of London, in 1282, Sebastiano Perretti of Valstrona, Italy, on October 18th 1585, John Peter Perotti of Valetta, Malta on April 4th 1718, and Diodata Perfilio who married Michelantoni Vietri at Poggio, Foggia, Italy, on December 12th 1826. The first recorded spelling of the family name anywhere in the world is believed to be that of Ralph Peter in the 1195 Pipe Rolls of the county of Hertford, England. This was during the reign of King Richard 1st, known as 'Lion-heart', who reigned 1189 - 1199. Surnames became necessary when governments introduced personal taxation, and throughout the centuries surnames in every country have continued to "develop", often leading to astonishing variants of the original spelling.
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