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 April Menaion Icon
The icon above is from Russia and dates to the 18th century. It shows in five rows of thirty-one “details” the Saints and Feasts associated with the month of April (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.
The Saints and feasts depicted are inscribed on the icon in Slavonic, along with Cyrillic numerals to indicate the date.
1. Venerable Mother Mary of Egypt, with scenes from her life (Apr 1); 2. Macarius, abbot of Pelecete and St Euthymius of Suzdal (Apr 1); 3. Titus the Wonderworker (Apr 2); 4. Nicetas the Confessor of Medikion (Apr 3); 5. Joseph the Hymnographer, George the Monk of Mt Maleon, and Zosimas of Palestine (Apr 4); 6. The Reader Theodulus and Deacon Agathapodes, martyrs of Thessaloníki (Apr 5)
7. Eutychius of Constantinople (Apr 6); 8. George the Confessor, Bishop of Mytilene (Apr 7); 9. Martyrs Herodion, Agabus and Rufus, of the Seventy (Apr 8); 10. Martyr Eupsychius pf Caesarea (Apr 9); 11. Martyrs Terence and Pompeius, beheaded at Carthage (Apr 10); 12. Hieromartyr Antipas of Pergamus (Apr 11); 13. Basil, Bishop of Ryazan (Apr 12); 14. Martyr Artemon, priest of Laodicea in Syria (Apr 13)
15. Martin the Confessor, Pope of Rome, and the Three Martyrs of Vilnius, Latvia: Anthony, John, and Eustathius (Apr 14); 16. Apostles Aristarchus, Pudens and Trophimus of the Seventy (Apr 15); 17. Virgin-Martyrs Agape, Irene and Chionia of Illyria(Apr 16); 18. Martyr Symeon, bishop in Persia, and Acacius, bishop of Melitine (Apr 17)
19. Venerable John, disciple of Gregory of Decapolis, and Comas, bishop of Chalcedon (Apr 18); 20. St. John of the Ancient Caves in Palestine (Apr 19); 21. Theodore Trichinas, “the Hair-Shirt Wearer” (Apr 20); 22. Hieromartyr Januarius, bishop of Benevento, and Martyr Theodore of Perge (Apr 21); 23. Theodore the Sykeote, bishop of Anastasiopolis; 24. Holy Glorious Wonderworker and Great Martyr George the Victory-Bearer (Apr 23); 25. Martyr Sabbas Stratelates, “the General” (Apr 24)
26. Holy Apostle and Evangelist Mark (Apr 25); 27. Hieromartyr Basil of Amasea and Stephen, Bishop of Perm (Apr 26); 28. Apostle of the Seventy and Martyr Simeon, kinsman of the Lord (Apr 27); 29. Apostles Jason and Sosipater of the Seventy (Apr 28); 30. The Nine Martyrs at Cyzicus and Memnon the Wonderworker of Corfu (Apr 29) 31. Holy Apostle James, Son of Zebedee, and Nicetas of Novgorod
The icon has inscriptions for the names of the Saints in scrolls above them. Above 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)