• Associate Dean for Research, College of Humanities, College Of Humanities
  • Distinguished Professor, History
  • University Distinguished Professor, History

Research Statement

Published in 2010 (2014 paperback) Heaven's Purge: Purgatory in Late Antiquity, investigates the early history of purgatory, and engages in the scholarly debates that have surrounded the definition, origins, and history of purgatory since the sixteenth-century reformation. In response to Jacques Le Goff's emphasis on purgatory as an artifact of the twelfth century, Heaven's Purge illuminates the importance of the early middle ages, the role of Irish and Anglo-Saxon visions, and the contribution of Bede to the formation of medieval purgatory.

Together with Bonnie Effros (U. Liverpool) I am editor of The Oxford Handbook of the Merovingian World published in 2020. With its focus on Merovingian history and archaeology, and Merovingian connections with Europe, the Mediterranean, and Indian Ocean world, the 46 essays by prominent and emergent scholars provide, in some cases for the first time in English, a holistic view of the subject. By means of an accessible format, the Oxford Handbook of the Merovingian World seeks to enable new directions of inquiry for this important era of European history.  

My first book, Dreams, Visions and Spiritual Authority in Merovingian Gaul was published in 2000 (Cornell University Press).

In 2010 I published, with Margaret Toscano as co-editor,  Hell and Its Afterlife: Historical and Contemporary Perspectives.

Research Keywords

  • medieval social and cultural history
  • material culture
  • late antiquity
  • Purgatory


  • “Slave, Queen, and Abolitionist: The Life and Legacy of St. Balthild of Francia (d. 680),” NYU – MARC - Medieval and Renaissance Center, Distinguished Lecture Series. Invited Talk/Keynote, Presented, 09/23/2021.
  • "Mind the Gap: Reflections on the Reconstruction of St. Balthild's Anglo-Saxon Childhood." Western Conference on British Studies. Conference Paper, Refereed, Presented, 09/27/2019.
  • ‘The Place of Merovingian Studies in the Global Middle Ages: A Roundtable Discussion.” International Medieval Congress, Leeds, UK. Other, Presented, 07/03/2019.
  • “Another Look at Merovingian Rings.” International Medieval Congress, Leeds, UK. (And session organizer). Conference Paper, Refereed, Presented, 07/01/2019.
  • "Les Enerves de Jumieges." History department Practicing History Conference. Conference Paper, Presented, 03/22/2019.
  • "Rings on her Fingers: Rings and Religion at the Very End of Antiquity.” Conference on Material Culture and Women’s Religious Experience, Neal A. Maxwell Institute, BYU, Provo, Utah. Conference Paper, Refereed, Presented, 03/08/2019.
  • “Writing an Early Medieval Biography: Balthild of Francia (c. 633-680).” Balthild of Francia was important figure in her time. Yet, because of the remote time period, and the specialized nature of the sources, she is little known outside the field of Merovingian studies. This project seeks to remedy that obscurity through a cultural biography that explores the life and times of a queen who lived in the seventh-century barbarian west, an era that has been termed (problematically) the “dark ages.” In fact, this was a time when Francia was still connected by trade and political aspirations to the Byzantine world. By contrast to so many other women of the era, even elite women, the documentary and material sources for the life and times of this seventh-century queen are exceptionally well-preserved. Indeed, as a result of new scientific methods and new approaches to archaeology, she is someone about whose life and environment we continue to know more. More challenging, however, is to think about how to write a biography of an individual who is remote in time from our own, who has left no self-authored works, and whose political career prompted such widely divergent assessments. Can one write a biography of a seventh-century queen? Invited Talk/Keynote, Presented, 01/09/2019.
  • “Purgatory, Intercession, and the Rise of Christian Ghosts” Abstract: Ghosts have long been associated with purgatory. This association rested on the belief that ghosts are dead people (often loved ones, family, and friends) seeking succor from the living. Although deeply rooted in Mediterranean culture in antiquity, this was an idea that developed slowly and sometimes inconsistently in the thought of early medieval Christian authors. The connection of ghosts with the emergence of purgatory in these centuries was neither immediate nor necessary. Augustine of Hippo was adamant that ordinary dead people did not return to the sphere of the living, but rather that reports of ghostly apparitions should be explained by means of the agency of angels – both good and bad. (Indeed, as reformation scholars have shown, when sixteenth century Protestant reformers sought to disengage ghosts from purgatory they revived Augustine’s view in their fashioning of a new theology without purgatory). Connection of the returning dead with loved ones, and with purgatory’s intercessory mechanisms, developed over time. This paper seeks to examine early medieval sources on ghosts, exorcism, purgatory, and intercession, to examine how ghosts, and ghost stories, were reconciled with an emerging theology on the fate of the Christian dead. Conference Paper, Refereed, Presented, 07/03/2018.
  • "Hidden Identities: Early Medieval Seal Rings in Life, Death, and Afterlife." for Conference, Inside Out: Dress and Identity in the Middle Ages. Center for Medieval Studies. Fordham University, New York. Conference Paper, Refereed, Presented, 03/17/2018.
  • "Preparing for Death: Possessions and their loss in Late Antiquity." Center for the Humanities and the Public Sphere, February 16th, 2017. Invited Talk/Keynote, Presented, 02/16/2017.
  • "The Balthild Seal Matrix and the Merovingian Erotic Gaze.". Conference Paper, Refereed, Presented, 07/2016.
  • Clovis II and Balthild: A Love Story? Invited Talk/Keynote, Presented, 09/12/2013.
  • Purgatory and History. At Conference: Heaven, Hell, ... and Purgatory? Loyola University, Baltimore. Invited Talk/Keynote, Presented, 06/11/2013.
  • "Hector of Marseilles is Purged: Political Rehabilitation and Guilt by Association in the Seventh-Century "Passion of Leudegar of Autun." International Medieval Congress, Leeds, UK. Conference Paper, Refereed, Presented, 12/2012.
  • "The Problem of Hell as a 'Last Thing'." at Medieval Studies Center, University of Loyola, Chicago. Invited Talk/Keynote, Presented, 11/14/2011.
  • “Giving Thanks for Loss: A Fifth-Century Aristocrat Battles Self-Doubt,” Rocky Mountain Medieval and Renaissance Association. Salt Lake City, UT. Conference Paper, Refereed, Presented, 04/2011.
  • “Positioning Gregory of Tours in a History of Purgatory,” Missouri Valley History Conference, Omaha, Nebraska. Conference Paper, Refereed, Presented, 03/2011.
  • “The Origin (and Origen) of Purgatory in the Seventh Century.” St. Patrick’s College. Purgatory: A Conference in Irish Literature and Culture. Dublin, Ireland. Conference Paper, Refereed, Presented, 11/2010.
  • “Goose and Beans: Food Ideals in Early Medieval Europe.” European Scholars Consortium Conference. Salt Lake City. Conference Paper, Presented, 10/2010.
  • “Bede and the History of Purgatory.” American Historical Association, Pacific Coast Branch. Santa Clara University. Conference Paper, Refereed, Presented, 08/2010.
  • Commentator for panel, “Discovering Mary” on contemporary Marian apparitions. American Historical Association Meeting, San Diego. Other, Presented, 01/2010.

Research Groups

  • British Studies, Reasearch Interest Group , Other. Tanner Center for the Humanities. 07/01/2014 - 03/30/2015.


  • English, fluent.
  • French, fluent.
  • German, fluent.
  • Latin, functional.
  • Portuguese, fluent.

Geographical Regions of Interest

  • Europe
  • France
    Research in Archives Nationales de France. Paris. Research at BnF. Paris. Research in Archives municipales et communautaires, Poitiers.
  • Germany
    Graduate Fellowship (Stipendiatin) at the Institut fur Europaische Geschichte, Mainz, Germany, 1984-86.
  • Italy
  • Portugal
    Resident 1969-76.
  • United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland
    Undergraduate and Graduate degrees.


  • Isabel Moreira & Bonnie Effros (2020). Oxford Handbook of the Merovingian World. (pp. 1141). Oxford University Press. Published, 10/01/2020.
  • Heaven's Purge: Purgatory in Late Antiquity. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 2010. Paperback edition 2014. Published, 11/17/2010.
  • Hell and Its Afterlife: Historical and Contemporary Perspectives. Aldershot: Ashgate Publishing, 2010. Published, 11/17/2010.
  • Dreams, Visions, and Spiritual Authority in Merovingian Gaul. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2000. Published, 04/2000.
  • Isabel Moreira (2021). "The Last Day: Judgment, Purification, and Transformation" in D. Meconi ed. The Cambridge Companion to Augustine’s City of God. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2021. Pp. 251-275. . (pp. 251-275). Cambridge University Press. Published, 08/01/2021.
  • Isabel Moreira (2021). "Rings on her Fingers: Merovingian Rings and Religion in Late Antiquity” in M. Ellinson, C. Taylor, C. Osiek eds. Material Culture and Women’s Religious Experience. London: Lexington Books, 2021. Pp. 303-336. . Lexington Books. Published, 10/01/2021.
  • Isabel Moreira & Isabel Moreira and Bonnie Effros (2020). "Pushing the Boundaries of the Merovingian World". (pp. 28). Vol. Oxford Hndbk Merovingian World, Oxford University Press. Published, 10/01/2020.
  • Isabel Moreira & I. Moreira and B. Effros (2020). “Visions and the Afterlife,” . (pp. 23). Oxford University Press. Published, 10/01/2020.
  • "Purgatory and History: Augustine and Bede" in Michael Root and James J. Buckley eds. Heaven, Hell, ... And Purgatory? (Cascade Books, Wipf and Stock Publishers, 2015) pages 34-46. Published, 08/01/2015.
  • "Hector of Marseilles is Purged: Political Rehabilitation and Guilt by Association in the Seventh-Century Passion of St. Leudegar of of Autun." Quaestiones Medii Aevi Novae (QMAN) vol. 17 (2012) 191-209. Published, 03/2013.
  • Moreira and Toscano: “Keeping Ajar the Gates of Hell,” introductory essay to book entitled Hell and Its Afterlife. Published, 12/2010.
  • “Plucking Sinners out of Hell: Saint Martin of Tours’ Resurrection Miracle,” in I. Moreira and M. Toscano, eds. Hell and Its Afterlife: Historical and Contemporary Perspectives (Farnham, Surrey: Ashgate, 2010). Published, 12/2010.
  • Van Egmond, Wolfert S., Conversing with the Saints. Communication in Pre-Carolingian Hagiography from Auxerre. Utrecht Studies in Medieval Literacy, 2006. Speculum 84.2 (2009) 503-5. Published, 04/01/2009.
  • "Violence, Purification and Mercy in the Late Antique Afterlife," in Violence in Late Antiquity: Perceptions and Practice, ed. H. A. Drake (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2006) 147-56. Published, 01/2006.
  • "Dreams and Divination in early Medieval Canonical and Narrative Sources: The Question of Clerical Control." Catholic Historical Review 89 (2003) 607-28. Published, 04/2003.
  • "Living in the Palaces of Love: Love and the Soul in a Vision of St. Aldegunde of Maubeuge (c.635-84).". Quidditas 19 (1998) 143-65. Published, 04/1998.
  • "St. Augustine's Three Visions and Three Heavens in some Early Medieval Florilegia," Vivarium 34 (1996) 1-14. Published, 04/1996.
  • "Provisatrix Optima: Radegund of Poitiers's Relic Petitions to the East," Journal of Medieval History 19 (1993) 285-305. Published, 04/1993.
  • Isabel Moreira (2024). La Vie de saint Didier, évêque de Cahors (630–655). Introduction, édition, traduction et notes par Keith Bate, Élisabeth Carpentier et Georges Pon. (pp. 138-139). Vol. 78. French Studies, Oxford University Press. Published, 01/15/2024.
  • Isabel Moreira (2023). Tamar Rotman, Hagiography, Historiography, and Identity in Sixth-Century Gaul: Rethinking Gregory of Tours. (pp. 590-595). Studies in Late Antiquity, University of California Press. Published, 12/01/2023.
  • Isabel Moreira (2023). Purgatory in Historical Perspective. (pp. 36pp). St Andrews Encyclopaedia of Theology. Published, 08/24/2023.
  • Isabel Moreira (2023). Jones, Allen E. Death and the Afterlife in the Pages of Gregory of Tours: Religion and Society in Late Antique Gaul. Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, 2020. Early Medieval Europe. Published, 01/2023.
  • Isabel Moreira (2018). Balthild of Neustria.. Oxford University Press. Accepted, 10/2018.
  • Isabel Moreira (2016). Isaïa, Marie-Céline, and Thomas Granier, eds. Normes et hagiographie dans l'Occident latin (VIe-XVIe siècle). Actes du colloque international de Lyon, 4-6 octobre 2010. Hagiologia, 9. Turnhout: Brepols, 2014. Bryn Mawr Classical Review. Published, 09/2016.