Skylight Windows: A Brief History

Skylight windows have been around for many centuries in one form or another, whether that be as spherical openings in ancient Roman buildings or as decorative cathedral roof lanterns in the 14th century. Over the years, developments in both glass making and interior design have lead to rooftop windows becoming a popular choice for many contemporary homeowners. To celebrate their success, we take a brief look into the history of these stylish yet practical windows:

In their absolute infancy, skylight windows began as large openings in ancient Roman buildings, created to enable a room to be filled with sunlight and fresh air. Often, these openings featured as part of a ‘roof lantern’; a multi-faceted structure that provided extra insulation and enabled incoming light to travel further around the room.

The glass element of these windows did not appear until later in the 13th century and was again, implemented by the Romans, who were known for their stunning architecture and elaborate interiors. During this period, glass was incredibly expensive, meaning many could seldom afford such a luxury material. Unlike modern day windows, Roman glass windows were rare and usually made of coloured, thick glass.

By the 14th century, the fashion of using glass in public buildings had reached many other Italian cities; consequently, many began to take an in interest in this new transparent material. According to records, it is believed that in 1480, Angelo Barovier, a Venetian craftsman, invented the first clear glass window pane.

Unlike Roman glass, which contained a noticeable yellow hue, Barovier’s glass was crystal clear, making it the preferred choice over it’s tinged predecessor. However, because it was still very difficult to produce on a large scale combined with its high cost, the use of glass remained limited to public buildings.

Although roof lanterns were prominent to cathedrals and churches, during the 17th century, advancements in glass making enabled their design to alter somewhat. For example, the introduction of lead-based glass by George Ravenscroft in 1674 made glass a far more malleable material, meaning it could be manipulated when warm to form more intricate designs.

This new aesthetic appeal of glass was particularly noticeable in roof lanterns during the Renaissance period. However, although being visually enticing was important, the main purpose of these windows was still to ensure as much light as possible reached the inside of buildings. As a result, the aim remained to produce large sheets of glass that could be used to provide total inside illumination.

This aim was finally achieved during the Industrial Revolution when machinery produced large glass panels. Not only were these panels bigger, but they were far clearer and significantly more weatherproof, predominantly as a result of glazing. This ability to produce glass more quickly on a larger scale also cheapened the process overall. This meant that instead of being restricted to grand public buildings, glass now featured in the homes of the upper and middle classes, usually as floor-to-ceiling windows or stairway skylight windows.

During the 20th century, skylight windows became popular with architects for both their practical and aesthetic appeal. Not only could using skylight windows bring functional benefits such as improved installation and better visibility, but they could also influence the overall appearance of buildings, often making them look far more stylish and sophisticated than other windows.

Today, skylight windows continue to be popular and commonly feature in homes and buildings across the world. Not only are these rooftop windows fantastic for filling your home with an abundance of natural light, but their thick glass panes also make them some of the most energy-efficient windows ever to be created. Here at Skylight Blinds Direct, we offer a wide variety of blinds to suit a number of skylight windows including skylight blinds for Aurora windows, Keylite windows, Velux windows and many more. To find out about our ranges, get in touch now on our social media channels – we’d love to help!

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