The Dark Ages get a bad press. The word “Dark” says it all. And the names of a lot of the groups associated with the Dark Ages, such as the Goths, the Huns and the Vandals, get misused in all sorts of ways … and they’re grouped together as “the barbarians”, which rather sums it up. I think the problem is that our society now is so based on the written word (or, these days, the typed-into-cyberspace word), and the Dark Ages wasn’t much of a time for writing. However, this excellent series, presented by the very entertaining Waldemar Januszczak, aims to show that the Dark Ages weren’t “dark” at all. Art, jewellery, buildings … there was plenty of absolutely exquisite stuff produced in those days.
In the first episode, we got Christian religious art, including some interesting points about how set ideas of what the major Biblical figures looked like developed, even though the Bible doesn’t actually tell us! Then the second episode covered the works of the so-called Barbarians, and the third episode the wonderful buildings of early Islam. In the final episode, we’re getting the Vikings. We’ve all seen examples of this wonderful artwork and these glorious buildings, and yet we still use the term “the Dark Ages”. Some people do talk about the “Early Middle Ages”, but “the Dark Ages” is still the more familiar term. We even use it as a jokey expression for something in our own lives that happened a long time ago. Yet it’s a misnomer. As the series title says, in many ways “the Dark Ages” were indeed “An Age of Light”!