The May Menaion Icon

The Menaion Icon for May (Russia, 16th Century)

The Menaion Icon for May (Russia, 16th Century)

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 May Menaion Icon

The icon above is from Russia and dates to the 16th century. It shows in four rows the Saints and Feasts associated with the month of May (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. This particular icon, for example, depicts a large number of Saints from the Rostov region in Russia, which may help identify its origin.

The Saints and feasts depicted are inscribed on the icon in Slavonic, though the writing is not easy to read in the picture used.

Boris and Gleb (+1015)First Row:
From left to right: The Prophet Jeremiah (May 1); Saint Athanasius the Great, Bishop of Alexandria (May 2); Holy Passion-bearers Boris and Gleb (the translation of their relics is remembered on May 2); Martyrs Timothy the Reader and his wife Maura (May 3); Repose of Abbot Theodosius of the Kiev Caves (May 3); Virgin Martyr Pelagia (May 4); Great-martyr Irene of Thessalonica (May 5); Priest-martyr Silvanus of Gaza (May 4); Righteous Job the Long-suffering (May 6); Venerable Anthony of Martqopi (May 7).


Appearance of the Honorable Cross over Jerusalem (357 A.D.)

Second Row:
The Apparition of the Holy Cross in the sky over Jerusalemin 351 A.D. (commemorated May 7); Holy Apostle John the Theologian (May 8); The Prophet Isaiah(?), shown with red cloack and cross to indicate his murder for preaching the truth (May 9); Holy Martyr Christopher (May 9); Translation of the relics of Nicholas the Archbishop and Wonder-worker of Myra (May 10); Holy Apostle Simon the Zealot (May 10); Priest-Martyr Mocius (May 11); St. Epiphanius, Bishop of Cyprus (May 12); Holy Virgin Martyr Glyceria (May 13); Holy Martyr Isidore (May 14)


Equal-to-the-Aposltes Ss Constantine and HelenaThird Row:
Blessed Isidore of Rostov, “Fool for Christ” (May 14); Venerable Pachomius the Great (May 15); St Isaiah, bishop and wonder-worker of Rostov (May 15); Theodore the Sanctified, disciple of Pachomius the Great (May 16); Apostle Andronicus of the Seventy (May 17); Holy Martyr Theodotus (May 18); Priestly-Martyr Patrick, bishop of Brussa (May 19); Holy Martyr Thalelaeus (May 20); Uncovering of the relics of St Alexis, Metropolitan of Moscow and Wonder-worker of Russia, in 1431 (May 20); Equal-to-the-Apostles Emperor Constantine and Helen, his mother (May 21); Holy Martyr Basiliscus of Comana (May 22); Michael the Confessor, Metropolitan of Synnada (May 23)


Third uncovering of the Head of St John the BaptistFourth Row:
Uncovering of the relics of Leontius, bishop and wonder-worker of Rostov (May 23); Symeon Stylites the Younger of the Wonderful Mountain and Venerable Nicetas, the stylite (both May 24); Third Finding of the Precious Head of John the Baptist (May 25); Holy Apostle Carpus of the Seventy (May 26); Martyr Therapontus, Bishop of Sardis (May 27); Nicetas, Confessor and Bishop of Chalcedon (May 28); St Ignatius of Rostov (May 28); Martyr Theodosia (May 29); Venerable Isaac the Confessor, founder of the Dalmatian Monastery (May 30); Apostle Hermes of the Seventy (May 31)


Looking at an Orthodox calendar (see link below) along with an icon such as this, and remembering that the Saints are grouped roughly 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


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One Response to The May Menaion Icon

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