The September Menaion: Icon of Saints and Church Feasts
The given icon of saints and church feasts, also known as the September Menaion, was once part of a larger cycle consisting of twelve icons for each month of the liturgical year. The icon represents a visual form of the Menaion, a Christian religious book guiding believers through their daily lives, which features religious holidays, services, and prayers that are supposed to be performed every day of the month.
The September Menaion: icon of saints and Church feasts
Traditionally, the liturgical year begins on September 1. Even after the changes to the secular calendar were made in the 18th century, the church calendar remained the same. Orthodox Menaion icons became especially popular in the 16th century and were usually placed on the analoion during the service.
The given hand-painted icon of saints has five tiers of scenes, each dedicated to a certain day in September, which is marked by red letters in the corner of the scene. The icon features a rather large number of saints. It was done, most likely, by request of the commissioner.
The first scene, reserved for September 1, marks the beginning of the Church year and depicts Jesus Christ preaching in the Synagogue of Nazareth. The Gospel says this happened on the first day of the Jewish Feast of the Harvest.
Apart from traditional Eastern Christian saints, you can also see religious figures that hold special significance for Russian Orthodox believers. For example, the icon features feasts that celebrate the burial, retrieval, and translation of relics of Russian saints.
Certain features of this icon of saints hint at the date of its origin. First and foremost, the overall artistic style of the given Russian icon points to the fact that it was painted around the second half of the 19th century. The icon was influenced by the Art Nouveau movement, an art style the Imperial Church was fond of in the late 19th – early 20th century. The figures of the saints are elongated, and the colors of their vestments and the background are bright and contrasting.
The masterful calligraphy and special attention to small details suggest that this icon of saints was created in Mstyora, a town located near the city of Vladimir, where some of the most highly trained icon painters of the time worked and lived. Those talented iconographers were often referred to as the “old masters,” as they were familiar with the centuries-long tradition of icon painting and could expertly replicate its features in their work.