It should be noted that using the term "Dark Ages" to refer to the Middle Ages is a loaded term (implying that Europe moved backwards after the fall of Rome, falling into an age of suspicion and ignorance) and this narrative has been largely disputed by most scholars and Medievalists,...
It should be noted that using the term "Dark Ages" to refer to the Middle Ages is a loaded term (implying that Europe moved backwards after the fall of Rome, falling into an age of suspicion and ignorance) and this narrative has been largely disputed by most scholars and Medievalists, debunked as a historical myth. There were evolutions within the Middle Ages which would further shape culture and society moving beyond that particular time period itself.
If we're looking at the intellectual climate, we'd largely be looking at Scholasticism, and the Medieval Era is actually quite important in the intellectual history of Western Europe. It's certainly true that Medieval Europe's intellectual climate was centered in the Church, with theology given pride of place. The Scholastics are most well known for recording and storing classical texts, but their work goes further than that. It was through Scholasticism and the Medieval Church that the first Universities were created. You could also discuss the rise of Aristotelianism, and with it empiricism, as represented by Scholastics like Albertus Magnus. Empirical thinking would later become the critical to the Scientific Revolution and Enlightenment, with (we should not forget) were in large part reactions against the Scholastics, but these were critically important evolutions nonetheless.
Another critically important theme of the Middle Ages tends to be Feudalism and the deeply decentralized power structures that shaped that era. This too evolved across the Middle Ages themselves, and we see across the long timespan of Medieval Europe populations increasing, bringing with it a revival in trade and the growth of towns and cities. The Feudal System would be broken down further by the Bubonic Plague, which carried with it horrifying death tolls, altering the demographics which made Feudalism a functional system. Looking forwards towards the Early Modern Era, you would see a turn towards increased centralization under the Monarchies, culminating with the Absolutists.
To conclude, I think the history of the transition from the Middle Ages is far more complicated than the popular narrative assumes.