The word Menaion (Gr: Μηναίον; Slavonic: Минея) comes from the Greek word meaning “of the month”. It is used to describe a way of grouping together liturgical texts, prayers and stories based on the order of Saints’ days and other feast days in the Church calendar.
A Menaion Icon is similar in that it is a pictorial grouping together of Saints and feasts, usually in rows, according to their order in the Church calendar. Menaion icons started to appear in Byzantium around the time of emperor Basil II (963-1025).
The January Menaion Icon
The icon above is from Russia and dates to the 16th century. It shows in five rows the Saints and Feasts associated with the month of January. The Saints and Feasts shown are by no means comprehensive, but are chosen according to their importance to the parish who owned the icon; because of this different Menaion Icons will not be identical in their list of Saints.
The top left corner marks the beginning of January with the Circumcision of our Lord Jesus Christ; next to the scene is St Basil the Great (both remembered Jan 1). The large panel on the first row showing many saints is the Synaxis of the Seventy Apostles (Jan 4).
At the beginning of the second row is the Baptism of Jesus Christ, or Theophany (Jan 6), whilst next to it is a scene of St John the Forerunner baptizing converts in the same river Jordan. This is because the day after Theophany is dedicated to St John the Baptist (Jan 7). At the end of this row is St Theodosius the Great the Monk (Jan 11).
The third row begins with Martyr Tatiana of Rome (Jan 12), whilst the four men being beheaded are the Father slain at Sinai and Raithu (Jan 14). The second panel from the right shows the miracle of the Apostle Peter’s release from prison (Acts 12:1-19), which is remembered on the feast of the Veneration of the Precious Chains of St Peter (Jan 16). Next to this panel is St Anthony the Great (Jan 17).
On the left of the fourth row are the two bishop-saints Athanasius and Cyril of Alexandria (Jan 18), with the Ss Macarius the Great (Jan 19) and Euthymius the Great (Jan 20) next to them. In the fourth panel from the right is the Apostle Timothy holding a gospel book (Jan 22) and in the next panel is Clement of Ancyra (Jan 23). The woman next to them is St Xenia of Rome (Jan 24). St Xenia of St Petersburg is a better known saint in Russia today, and is also remembered on Jan 24, but the icon predates her repose (c 1803). Finally on the fourth row is St Gregory the Theologian (Jan 25).
At the bottom of the icon is the family of martyrs: Xenophon, his wife Mary, and their sons Arcadius and John (Jan 26). Next to this is a scene of the Translation of the Relics of John Chrysostom (Jan 27). Also on the bottom row are the Three Holy Hierarchs (Jan 30), and in the final panel are the Unmercanaries Cyrus and John, next to St Nikita of the Kiev Caves (all Jan 31).
The icon has inscriptions for all the Saints and Feasts, though the resolution of the image makes them impossible to read. In the corners of the panels are Cyrillic Numerals, indicating the date, though these are also difficult to discern. Looking at an Orthodox calendar (see link below) along with an icon such as this, and remembering that the Saints are grouped in date order, helps to identify who is who.
Cyrillic Numerals (used in Russian Icons to indicate dates and often the year an icon was painted)