The Tring Tiles

The British Museum is the gold standard when it comes to the presentation of antiquities. Their displays are well-organized and the writings about the displayed items are clear and the product of expertise.

An example was the display for the Tring tiles, produced between 1320 and 1330 in England. According to the text that accompanies the display,Tring Tiles, British Museum, London, England

The first official miracle attributed to Christ occurred at the wedding feast at Cana (John 2:1-11). However, gaps in the gospel narratives led to the growth of apocryphal legends to account for the early years of Christ’s life. The Tring tiles are an outstanding example of images drawn from the ‘unofficial’ life of Christ.

The tiles were purchased by the Museum at a curio shop in Tring, Herfordshire England.  They depict Jesus messing around with his pals. As described in the display:

Scenes of Jesus at play often result in the death of one of his schoolmates (shown as upside down). In every instance the Virgin Mary intervenes and restores things to normality.

Example:

Jesus makes pools by the River Jordan. A bully destroys one and falls dead.Tring Tiles, British Museum, London, England Jesus restores the boy to life by touching him with his foot.

Note that Mary is shown as unhappy in the second panel. There are several examples of this kind of comic narrative. In another a boy playfully jumps onto Jesus’s back and is stricken dead. Two women are shown in the next panel complaining to Joseph while Jesus resurrects the stricken boy.

Another theme in the tiles is the perhaps understandable unwillingness of the parents of Nazareth to allow their children to play with Jesus. Thus,

Left A father locks his boy up in a tower to stop him playing with Jesus.Tring Tiles, British Museum, London, England

Right Jesus miraculously pulls him through the lock so that they can play.

Another example along similar lines,

In one scene, parents have locked their children in an oven to prevent them from playing with Jesus (tile 7). When Jesus asks what is in the oven, he is told ‘pigs’. The scene where the children are turned into pigs and then restored to normality is missing.

I enjoyed these medieval comic books and their imaginative elaboration on the gospel record, basically depicting Jesus as a divine Cat in the Hat.

About Saint Expedite

Retired early, then took a trip across the Pacific from Seattle by container ship. From China I stopped in Vietnam, Thailand, Malaysia, Turkey, Greece, Italy, France, Holland, Denmark, England and Ireland before heading home to Puget Sound. This blog is an account of my travels. Write to me at SaintExpedite@frozenheads.net
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One Response to The Tring Tiles

  1. Herb Jepko says:

    I remember Fr. Schlatter discussing these unofficial aspects of Jesus’ younger life. I thought that they were more interesting than the official gospels.

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