“YEAR” ICONS

First, a little vocabulary.  The  Menaion , (ή Μηναίον) — from the Greek word for “month” — is a twelve-volume set of Eastern Orthodox liturgical books that includes lives of the saints for each month of the year. By extension, the term Menaia (plural form) is applied to calendar icons depicting the saints for each month.  These are traditionally found in sets of twelve separate icons.  We can just call them “Month” icons.  Such icons are rather common, though finding a complete set of them is not.

Even more uncommon is finding a “Year” icon — in Russian Mineya Godovaya (Минея годовая).  Such a “Year” icon contains hundreds of separate figures, and is thus likely the most detailed and complex icon type.

Here is a “Year” icon.  At the center is the” Resurrection” — the most important festival of the Eastern Orthodox year.  Surrounding it are twelve “month” segments, depicting the major saints and most important festivals for each of the twelve months.  We have seen the “Resurrection” before as the central image in icons of the major Church festivals.  And we have seen “month” icons, each depicting a separate month.  But here, not only are the twelve month icons all joined together on one image, but surrounding them in the outer border are the so-called “miracle-working” icons of Mary that are celebrated in each month of  the Church year.

These Marian icons, though not depicting absolutely every icon so venerated in Russian Orthodoxy, nonetheless represent the standard old list of “official” types.  On “Year” icons they are shown in simplified form, without the detail one often finds in individual Marian icons.  Even in this small photo, one can recognize the “Unburnt Thornbush” type as the eighth from the left in the top row, and beside it, easily identified by its red face, is the Ognevidnaya type — the “Fiery-faced” icon of Mary.

(Courtesy of the Icon Museum, Kampen:  ikonenmuseumkampen.nl

(Courtesy of the Icon Museum, Kampen: ikonenmuseumkampen.nl

It makes sense that “Year” icons, because of the amount of work necessary to paint them and their consequent rarity on today’s market, are generally quite expensive, and one is most likely to find them in museum collections, such as that of the Icon Museum at Kampen in the Netherlands, where this representative example is housed.

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