How Dare He?!

From J.H. Plumb, The Italian Renaissance (1961). Speaking of the Middle Ages, Plumb writes:

The wealth that was wrung from the soil and the tenuous trade of those dark centuries was poured into the splendid barbaric churches, noble if grotesque, that soared to heaven in violation of all the harmonies of ancient art. Or it served a grimmer purpose, and from it grew the towering fortresses, the embattled towers, the walled cities that were a necessity in a society in which the clang of armor was as common as the church bell.

As a card-carrying member of the medievalists’ guild, I must protest! Why is wealth “wrung from” the soil (as opposed to, say, “produced by” it)? How could Chartres Cathedral be built by “tenuous” trade? And why are we judging Gothic churches, marvels of engineering and beautiful in their own right, by any ancient fashions? Furthermore – have you seen the Medici palace, or the Visconti castle? These Renaissance buildings were certainly built with the “grim” purpose of defense in mind, given that in Renaissance Italy the clang of armor was a very common sound indeed.

Sheesh.