Length: 32.500 cm
Width: 16.200 cm
Thickness: 3.500 cm
Room 40: Medieval Europe
The Tring Tiles
England, about 1320-1330
Childhood miracles of Christ
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.
Most of the tiles contain two scenes, with the narrative operating in the same manner as a modern-day comic strip. Missing scenes, however, disturb the continuity of the story, so that a tile showing the reaping of corn miraculously multiplied to a vast amount is combined with an unconnected incident. The tile with the preceding scene of Christ sowing his mother's corn is lost.
Some of the stories told by the tiles are drawn from the ordinary activities of children and given a miraculous element. Consequently, a boy who destroys pools made by Jesus on the banks of the Jordan is struck dead and restored to life in the next scene (tile 1). A similar fate befalls a child who attacks Jesus (presumably in play) and he too is restored to life (tile 2). A reluctance on the part of parents to allow their children to play with Christ is also described. 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. Another parent locks his son in a tower to keep him away from Jesus and Jesus rescues him (tile 3). Other tiles concentrate on the charity and wisdom of Jesus.
The fact that the tiles have not suffered a great deal of wear might suggest that they decorated a wall rather than a floor. Their sgraffito design may indicate that they were produced in the east of England where this technique was popular on pottery.
E. Eames, Catalogue of Medieval lead-gla (London, The British Museum Press, 1989)
J. Alexander and P. Binski, Age of chivalry: art in Planta (Royal Academy, London, 1987)