The fall of Pagan Roman Empire brought about many changes including the adoption of Christianity as its newly accepted form of religion. As a result the social order of things was altered and with it the need for new forms of architecture. There were basically two forms of majority architecture during the middle ages. There was military architectures such as castles and barracks, and there were churches to hold the multitude of people who had adopted Christianity as their new form of religion. Unlike the pagan temples from before, the new Churches were designed to accommodate very large gatherings of people and would also facilitate the hearing of the spoken word and chanted Psalms. The ancient Roman temple form could not be used this way.
To say that the middle age architecture was “dark” would imply that the word dark was in specific reference to an architectural definition pre-defined. If meant in the literal definition of the word I would have to say “maybe” in regards to Churches and “yes” to Castles in the structural sense. The Churches were laden with windows to illuminate the splendorous work of the inside walls. Although the outside of Middle age churches were dull, the insides were highly decorated and well thought out with marble and mosaics.
The Basillica was the most popular form of structure used during the Middle Ages. Its had originally been designed for public gatherings and when Constantine chose it to be used they realized that it carried a positive connotation of having to do with the equitable administration of earthly justice. But other building types were favored as well. The pagan heroa, a building commemorating the deeds of a divinity or deceased member of a prominent family was a plan used as could be seen in the octagonal tomb Dioclectian built for himself in his palace compound at Spalato. Many Christian architectural structures were developed to mark a place of suffering or execution of a martyr and burial mausoleums which could be viewed as “dark” in the perceptual understanding of the individual persons beliefs. An early example of the Basilica would be St. Peter’s in Rome. It was built on what was at one time a cemetery next to the remains of the Circus of Nero. It would be difficult to say this was literally a dark building because it had many windows along it’s clerestory at a height of 104.5 feet. Yet it could be said to be dark in the sense that it was built over the tomb of St. Peter. Also the Church of the Nativity and the Zenobius Church of the Holy Sepulcher marked places of burial and martyrdom and could possibly be viewed by some as dark places depending on the interpretation of the architectural meaning or intent along with one’s personal beliefs.
The most notable of Middle Age architecture I would have to say is the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul. It would be very difficult to convince me that this architecture was in any way dark. Except for the fact that the columns were used from the Temple of Artemis and the Temple of Zeus at Baalbek as a further proof that the conquest of the pagan world was complete, this structure is glorious to say the least. Rising a height of 180 feet tall the structure houses hundreds of windows that illuminate the inside with suffused light reflecting off of the marble walls and mosaics. This same brilliance can also be seen at the Church of San Marco which is just as impressive. The church has five domes which house windows at their base to illuminate the walls covered in gold-backed mosaics of the apostles, saints and angels.
I believe to say that the middle ages was a dark period in architecture would only allude to the fact that it was during the fall of the once great Pagan Roman Empire. Much change was happening at this time and perhaps much social insecurity. But also it could be said that the newly formed architectural importance was on the Church buildings which represented the new form of religion based upon a...