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 February Menaion Icon
The icon above is from Russia, now part of a private collection in Israel. It shows in five rows the Saints and Feasts associated with the month of February. 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 icon begins with the Holy Martyr Tryphon (Feb 1), though the first row is dominated by the scene for Christ’s Presentation in the Temple (Feb 2); Ss Symeon and Anna are also shown in a separate panel (Feb 3).
The second row begins with the Great Martyr Theodore Stratelates and the Prophet Zechariah (both Feb 8). Also on this row are Ss Marcellus, Bishop of Sicily (Feb 9), Hieromartyr Blaise of Sebaste (Feb 11), St Alexis, Metropolitan of Moscow, and St Meletius of Antioch (both Feb 12)
The third row includes Martyr Pamphilius and St Flavian the Confessor standing together (Feb 16), Great Martyr Theodore the Recruit (Feb 17), and St Leo the Great, Bishop of Rome (Feb 18).
The fourth row is dominated by panels celebrating two events: The uncovering of the relics of the Martyrs at the Gate of Eugenius, Constantinople (Feb 22), and the Finding of the Head of John the Baptist (Feb 24). Also on this row are the Apsotles Archippus and Philemon (Feb 19) and St Polycarp, Bishop of Smryna (Feb 23).
The icon has inscriptions for all the Saints and Feasts, and in the corners of the panels are Cyrillic Numerals, indicating the date. 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)