The March Menaion Icon

Menaion Icon for March (19th Century, Russia)

Menaion Icon for March (19th Century, Russia)

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 March Menaion Icon

Russian Inscription: Menaion for March

The icon above is from Russia and dates to the 19th century. It shows in five rows the Saints and Feasts associated with the month of March (click on the image above to see the full-sized picture). 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.

Resurrection of Christ

The most significant part of this icon, in the centre of the third row, is a depiction of the Resurrection. The Feast of the Resurrection (i.e. Easter, or Pascha) is a movable feast which occasionally falls during March, which might explain why it is shown in this icon. Alternatively, the image of Christ’s Resurrection may have been given a central place in this icon as it is considered the “Feast of Feasts”, and therefore central to any Church calendar.

The Saints and feasts depicted are clearly inscribed on the icon, in Russian, though my own deficiencies in understanding the Cyrillic alphabet mean I cannot name them all. An incomplete list follows:

First Row:

Gerasimus of the JordanMartyr Eudocia of Heliopolis and (possibly) Martyrius of Zelensk (Mar 1); Hieromartyr Theodotus and Arsenius, Bishop of Tver (Mar 2); Martyrs Eutropius, Cleonicus and Basiliscus of Amasea (Mar 3); Gerasimus of Jordan (Mar 4); Monk Adrian of Poshekhonye, Martyr Conon, and Virgin-Martyr Irais (Mar 5); Finally, what looks like a number of the 42 Martyrs of Ammoria in Phrygia (Mar 6).

Second Row:

40 Holy Martyrs of SebasteThree of the Priest-martyrs of Cherson (Mar 7); Theophylactus, Bishop of Nicomedia, and Martyr Theodoretus of Antioch (Mar 8); The Holy Forty Martyrs of Sebaste (Mar 9); Martyrs Codratus and Cyprian at Corinth, along with an unnamed female martyr who died with them (Mar 10); (possibly) Epimachus of Pelusium and St Sophronius – probably the Patriarch of Jerusalem going by his vestments (Mar 11); Theophanes the Confessor and Gregory the Great (Mar 12).

Third Row:

Translation of the Relics of St. Nicephorus, Patriarch of ConstantinopleTranslation of the Relics of St. Nicephorus, Patriarch of Constantinople (Mar 13); Benedict of Nursia (Mar 14); Two of the Holy Martyrs Agapius and the Seven with Him (Mar 15); The Resurrection of Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ (movable feast); (possibly) Sabinus of Egypt, Serapion, Archbishop of Novgorod, and Martyr Trophimus (Mar 16); Alexius the Man of God (Mar 17); Ananias, monk of the Euphrates, and Cyril of Jerusalem (Mar 18).

Fourth Row:

The Holy Fathers slain at the Monastery of St. SabbasMartyrs Chrysanthus and Daria of Rome (Mar 19); The Holy Fathers slain at the Monastery of St. Sabbas (Mar 20); James the Confessor and Cyril, Bishops of Catania (Mar 21); Martyr Drosida of Antioch and (probably) Basil of Ancyra (Mar 22); Monk-martyr Nikon and the 199 disciples with him in Sicily (Mar 23); Artemon, Bishop of Seleucia and Monk James the Iconodule (Mar 24).

Fifth Row

The Annunciation and the Synaxis of Angel Gabriel

The Annunciation (left) and the Synaxis of the Archangel Gabriel (right)

The Annunciation (Mar 25); Synaxis of the Archangel Gabriel (Mar 26); Matrona of Thessalonica (Mar 27); Hilarion the New, abbot of Pelecete and Stephen the Wonderworker, abbot of Tryglia (Mar 28); Martyrs Mark, Bishop of Arethusa, and Cyril, deacon of Heliopolis, who suffered under Julian the Apostate (Mar 29); John the Silent or John of the Ladder, and Zosimas – Bishop of Syracuse (Mar 30); Hypatius the Wonderworker, Bishop of Gangra (Mar 31).

The icon has inscriptions for almost all of the Saints and Feasts in Russian. In the corners of the panels are Cyrillic Numerals, indicating the date, with the exception of the panel showing the Resurrection as this is a movable feast. 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)

List of Saints from the Prologue from Ochrid, including modern Menaion icons in English

More about the Menaion


This entry was posted in Icons of Christ, Resurrection Icons, Special Icons, The Saints and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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