The Fourteenth-Century Tring Tiles
Casey, Mary F.
Peregrinations: International Society for the Study of Pilgrimage Art, Volume 2, Issue 2 (2007)
Images of the Christ Child rarely puzzle or astonish their viewers, as they routinely follow a canonically scripted format. As such, these traditional images of the Child Jesus stand in sharp contrast to the provocative images taken from the early apocrypha and laid down, sometime in the first quarter of the fourteenth century, on an over-sized set of ten rectangular, red clay tiles, known as the Tring Tiles.1 (fig. 1).
These extraordinary images yield a most unusual perspective on the childhood of Jesus as they portray stories derived from the second-century Apocryphal Infancy of Christ Gospels which purport to tell events from Jesus’ life, from ages 5 – 12. In these stories Jesus kills other boys and a Jewish teacher who offend him, and then returns them to life. Even though Jesus also performs traditional Christian miracles, such as planting a single grain of wheat to immediately produce an entire crop for the poor to harvest, and healing the lame and the injured, the Infancy stories were so startling that Church Fathers condemned them as unsuitable for inclusion in the canon.