Picture Windows: History of the first window

Picture windows, or fixed windows, were literally a hole in the wall, centuries ago, to allow light and air into a home. The holes were covered with animal hide, cloth or wood. It wasn’t until much later that windows were built to protect the occupants from the outside elements. When flattened pieces of translucent animal horn, thin slices of marble, or pieces of glass were placed into frames of iron, wood or lead, the first picture window was created.


Antique Roman picture window glass from Straubing Bavaria Germany.
Antique Roman picture window glass from Straubing Bavaria Germany. Photo by Bullenwächter


Romans were the first known to use glass for windows. In 100 AD, in Alexandria, cast glass windows started to appear. The glass was nothing more than blown glass jars flattened into sheets, making the glass difficult to see through. Techniques were developed to shear one side of the flattened blown glass to produce a thinner more rectangular shape. The blown glass later led to the creation of the stained glass window.

Around 532 AD, early Christian and Byzantine churches used pierced marble frames, enclosing panes of glass. The Islamic mosque builders took it a step further by using thin marble to create pattern designs and allowing color to be used. It wasn’t until the 12th and 13th centuries in western and northern Europe that the stained glass practice reached full expansion. Using strips of lead, called cames, European glaziers shaped the lead into patterns to separate the different colors, creating the elaborate stained glass windows seen in churches.
It would be over a millennium before window glass became transparent enough to see through, like it is today -- allowing any homeowner to have a beautiful, decorative glass picture window to view outside and let light into their home.

Today picture windows:

  • Come in all shapes and sizes, from triangles to octagons, from floor to ceiling.


Picture Window Specialty Shapes
Picture Window Specialty Shapes


  • Can be paired with other window styles, such as a double-hung.
  • Are often used in a bay window
  • Are the most energy-efficient window, because they are inoperable, keeping air infiltration to a minimum and making many models ENERGY STAR certified
Prev Previous What is a casement or awning window?
Next What is a bay or a bow window? Next

Leave a Comment