St. Barnabas with a "Magistra Apostolorum"

Basilica of Santa Maria sopra Minerva

I photographed this painting in 2007. In 2010 a reader informed me that it was no longer on view.

The legend in the upper right corner identifies SAN BARNABAS AP[OSTO]LUS, "St. Barnabas the Apostle." The book he is holding is open to the words MAGISTRA APOSTOLORVM . The woman pointing to those words could be Maria Ecclesia, a concept that conflates the historical Mary with the Church as an eternal spouse of Christ. In his commentary on the Song of Solomon, magistra apostolorum is what Rupert of Deutz calls the bride, whom he identifies with the Virgin Mary, who is typically pictured as here in a blue mantle over a red gown.1 In turn, the historical Mary is often conflated with Ecclesia, the mystical Church that is Christ's spouse from all time. The Church is called mater et magistra in medieval papal documents.2

Alternatively, the woman could be Mary Magdalene, who is called "a woman apostle among the apostles" in The Life of St. Godric and "(female) apostle of the apostles" in the Golden Legend.3

Read more about images of St. Barnabas.
Read more about images of St. Mary Magdalene.
Read more about portraits of Mary.
Read more about images of Ecclesia, the Church.
Read more about images of St. Barnabas.

Photographed at the basilica by Richard Stracke, shared under Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike license.

1 See Gittens.

2 The 11th-century documents are referenced in a note in a Wikipedia article. The 20th-century one is the encyclical Mater et Magistra (May 15, 1961).

3 Stouck, 423. Ryan, I 376; Graesse, 409.