The Dark Ages have been misunderstood. History has identified the period following the fall of the Roman Empire with a descent into barbarism - a terrible time when civilisation stopped.
Waldemar Januszczak disagrees. In this four-part series he argues that the Dark Ages were a time of great artistic achievement, with new ideas and religions provoking new artistic adventures. He embarks on a fascinating trip across Europe, Africa and Asia, visits the world's most famous collections and discovers hidden artistic gems, all to prove that the Dark Ages were actually an 'Age of Light'.
1. The Clash of the Gods
In the first episode he looks at how Christianity emerged into the Roman Empire as an artistic force in the third and fourth centuries. But with no description of Jesus in the Bible, how were Christians to represent their God? Waldemar explores how Christian artists drew on images of ancient gods for inspiration and developed new forms of architecture to contain their art.
2. What the Barbarians Did for Us
The 'Barbarians' are often blamed for the collapse of the Roman Empire, but in reality they were fascinating civilisations that produced magnificent art. Focusing on the Huns, Vandals and Goths, Waldemar follows each tribe's journey across Europe and discovers the incredible art they produced along the way.
3. The Wonder of Islam
Along with Christianity, the Dark Ages saw the emergence of another vital religion - Islam. After emerging in the near East it spread across North Africa and into Europe, bringing its unique artistic style with it. Waldemar examines the early artistic explorations of the first Muslims, the development of their mosques and their scientific achievements.