Modern Eyeglasses Were Invented In Pisa, Italy Between 1285 And 1289

Fresco Image of 14th century Italian monk holding original "occhiali" or glasses

INTERESTING EYEWEAR FACT: An earlier post on this site has credited the Chinese with the invention of sunglasses. With regards to eyeglasses, it is now widely accepted that craftsmen, more probably monks, in Pisa, Italy produced the first iteration of the archetype of modern eyeglasses between 1285 – 1289. Yet, the identity of the individual (or individuals) is unknown, most likely because his identity would have given information on the design itself, which apparently was kept secret as long as possible to avoid competitors from creating their own forms.

Giordano da Rivalto, a monk, was quoted as saying during one of his sermons that he knew the man who created glasses, calling them one of the “one of the most useful arts on earth”. Yet, he intentionally avoided uttering the person’s name during this same sermon. Interestingly, Rivalto was also the person who called the novel invention “occhiali” or “eyeglasses.” Technically, these “frames” were simply two convex-shaped stones or crystals (often out of glasses) held together and in place on the face with a handle (like that in the inline tapestry).

Despite the best efforts of the mysterious inventor to keep the designs secret, another monk, Friar Alesandro Spina, benevolently decided to design pairs of glasses himself and made a point of distributing them to everyone, ultimately improving humanity and allowing all the privilege of enhanced and corrected vision.