One of the reasons why the Early Medieval Period was so "dark" is that literacy was at an all-time low. The average number of books to be found in a Medieval library was twenty. However, during this time we see a brief glimpse of advancement. The Carolingian dynasty emerged but only survived less than 150 years. It was responsible for efficient government and renewed interest in learning and the arts. Charles the Great (Charlemagne) was the best of the Carolingian dynasty. He was King of the Franks and then elevated to the papacy on Christmas Day in the year 800 and then made the first Holy Roman Emperor. His domain included almost all of the Western half of the old Roman Empire, and he tried to rebuild the splendors of Rome, starting at his capital, Aix-la-Chapelle in Germany. Much like the Romans who imported Greek artists, Charlemagne brought in scholars from other countries to teach in the new schools he was constructing. Learning and the arts sparked to life, but then Charlemagne died in 814, and the strong, central government collapsed again, sending Europe back into feudalism.
Here is a small statue that was made at the time. It depicts the great Holy Roman Emperor, crowned, riding on a horse. Notice what he's carrying in his hand?