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 July Menaion Icon
The icon above is from Russia and dates to the 17th century. It shows in four rows the Saints and Feasts associated with the month of July (click on its image 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, with Cyrillic numerals used to indicate the feast date, though the writing is not easy to read in the picture used.
First Row (left to right): Holy Unmercenaries Cosmas and Damian (July 1); The Placing of the Robe of the Theotokos at Blachernae (July 2); Martyr Hyacinth of Caesarea (July 3); Saint Andrew of Crete (July 4); Venerable Athanasius, founder of the Great Lavra on Mt. Athos (July 5); Sergius of Radonezh (the uncovering of his relics are remembered on July 5); St Sisoes the Great (July 6); St Thomas of Mt. Maleon (July 7); St. Procopius, Wonder-worker of Ustiug (July 8); Hieromartyr Pancratius of Sicily (July 9); Forty-five martyrs at Nicopolis in Armenia (July 10).
Second Row: Great-martyr Euphemia, the All-praised (July 11); Martyr Proclus of Ancyra (July 12); Synaxis of the Archangel Gabriel (July 13); Monk Onesimus of Magnesia (July 14) Martyrs Cyricus and his mother, Julitta of Tarsus (July 15); Equal-to-the-Apostles Prince Vladimir (July 15); Martyr Athenogenes, Bishop of Heracleopolis (July 16); The First, Second, and Third Ecumencial Councils (the nearest Sunday to July 16 commemorates the Holy Fathers of the First Six Ecumencial Councils).
Third Row: The Fourth, Fifth, and Sixth Ecumencial Councils (the nearest Sunday to July 16 commemorates the Holy Fathers of the First Six Ecumencial Councils); Venerable Lazarus of Galecion (the translation of his relics is commemorated on July 17); Martyr Emilian of Bulgaria (July 18); St Macrina, sister of Basil the Great (July 19); Holy Prophet Elijah (July 20), his disciple, the prophet Elisha, and Ezekiel (Ezekiel’s feast day is July 21); Holy Myrrh-Bearer Mary Magdalene (July 22).
Fourth Row: Martyr Trophimus (unsure – his feast day is July 23); Martyr Christina of Tyre, and the Holy Passion-Bearers Boris and Gleb (July 24); Righteous Anna, Mother of the Theotokos (her dormition is remembered on July 25); Virgin Eupraxia (July 25); Priest-Martyr Hermolaus (July 26); St. Moses the Hungarian, of the Kiev Caves (July 26); Great-Martyr and Healer Panteleimon (July 27); Apostles Prochorus and Nicanor, of the Seventy (July 28); Martyr Callinicus of Gangra (July 29); Apostles Silas and Silvanus of the Seventy and those with them (July 30); Righteous Eudocimus of Cappadocia (July 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)