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Maeve Callan

Department Chair of Religion, Co-Director of the Interfaith Fellows Program and Professor of Religion
I am our department’s historian of religion, with particular interest and expertise in the marginalized and underrepresented, gender issues, and interfaith engagement.


I am the historian in our department, as well as the main “World Religions” professor. My first book, The Templars, the Witch, and the Wild Irish (2015), published by Cornell University Press and Four Courts Press, explores Ireland’s handful of heresy trials, their role in the colonization of the island by the English, and their relationship to heresy and witchcraft prosecution in Britain and on the Continent. My second, Sacred Sisters (2020), focuses on gender, sanctity, and power in medieval Ireland, and is the first book in Amsterdam University Press’s new “Hagiography Beyond Tradition” series. My current project examines the intersections between religion, ethnic identity, and racism in the British Isles between 1000 and 1500. With Rev. Mara Bailey, I co-direct Simpson’s Interfaith Fellows Program, which helps cultivate greater understanding and constructive engagement with religious diversity as it helps students develop leadership skills and abilities.


  • Medieval Christianity
  • Women’s Religious History
  • Irish Religious History
  • Religious Diversity and Interfaith Engagement

Selected Awards

  • Interfaith Youth Core Racial Equity and Interfaith Cooperation Award, 2020
  • American Society for Irish Medieval Studies and Four Courts Press’ Michael Adams Prize for Best Academic Paper in Irish Medieval Studies, 2019
  • Simpson College Distinguished Teaching Award 2018
  • Simpson College Research Award 2014


  • Northwestern University, Ph.D. in Religion, 2002; M.A. in Religion, 1998.
  • University of Dublin, Trinity College, M.Phil. in Women’s Studies, 1994.
  • Pomona College, B.A. in Religious Studies, 1992.

Selected Publications

  • Sacred Sisters: Gender, Sanctity, and Power in Medieval Ireland. Amsterdam University Press, 2020.
  • “Syneisaktism: Sacred Practice and Sinister Scandal.” In The Sacred and the Sinister: Studies in Medieval Religion and Magic. Ed. David Collins, S.J. Penn State University Press, 2019.
  • Making Monsters out of One Another in the Early Fourteenth-Century British Isles: The Irish Remonstrance, the Declaration of Arbroath, and the Anglo-Irish Counter-Remonstrance.” Eolas 12 (2019): 43-63.
  • The Templars, the Witch, and the Wild Irish: Vengeance and Heresy in Medieval Ireland. Cornell University Press and Four Courts Press, 2015. Released in paperback, 2017.
  • “Líadain’s Lament, Darerca’s Life, and Íte’s Ísucán: Evidence for Nuns’ Literacies in Early Ireland.” In Nuns’ Literacies in Medieval Europe. Vol. II. Ed. Virginia Blanton, Veronica O’Mara, and Patricia Stoop. Brepols Press, 2015.
  • “How England sought to turn colonising Ireland into a crusade.” The Irish Times. July 21, 2015. http://www.irishtimes.com/culture/books/how-england-sought-to-turn-colonising-ireland-into-a-crusade-1.2292065
  • “Dublin’s First Heretic? Archbishop-Elect Richard de Haverings’ Letter to Thomas de Chaddesworth Regarding Philip de Braybrook, 4 September, 1310.” Analecta Hibernica. 44  (2013): 1-12.
  • “The Case of the ‘Incorrigible’ Canon: Dublin’s First Conviction for Heresy in an Ongoing Rivalry between its Cathedral Chapters.” Proceedings of the Royal Irish Academy 113C (2013): 163-91.
  •  “Of Vanishing Fetuses and Maidens Made-Again: Abortion, Restored Virginity, and Similar Scenarios in Medieval Irish Hagiography and Penitentials.” Journal of the History of Sexuality 21 (2012): 282-96.
  • “St. Darerca and Her Sister Scholars: Women and Education in Medieval Ireland.” Gender & History 15 (2003): 32-49.

Selected Conference Participation

  • “‘That which was in flooding is all in ebb’: Gender and Holy Space in Medieval Ireland.” Southeastern Medieval Association Annual Meeting, Charleston, SC. November 2017.
  • Brigid the Bishop, Refuge of Women: Authority, Sex, and Gender in the Lives of an Irish Saint.” Berkshire Conference of Women Historians. Hofstra University, New York. June 2017.
  • “The Inedia of St Íte and Bottomless Beers for Bishops: Fasting and Feasting in Female Irish Saints’ Lives.” International Medieval Congress. University of Leeds, England. July 2016.
  •  “A Miraculous Beastie Between the Thighs, and No Women or Irish Need Apply: Gender and Ethnicity in Bernard of Clairvaux’s Vita Sancti Malachiae and Stephen of Lexington’s Letters from Ireland.” Cistercians, Chronologies, and Communities Conference. Iowa City, Iowa. May 2016.
  • A Witch’s Defense: Women’s Rights and Conflicts between Canon and Common Law in the Kilkenny Witch Trial of 1324.” International Congress of Medieval Studies. Kalamazoo, Michigan. May 2016.
  • “The Secret of Ledrede’s Success: How Richard de Ledrede, Bishop of Ossory, overcame months of resistance to effect the British Isles’ first execution at the stake (Kilkenny, 1324).” Annual Conference of Irish Medievalists, University College Dublin, Ireland, July, 2015.
  • “Scothín’s Syneisaktoi and Orbile’s Aging: Sisterhood, Syneisaktism, and Sexual Violence in Irish Hagiography.” Celtic Studies Association of North America Annual Conference. University of California, Berkeley, March, 2015.
  • “From the Dawn of the Devil-Worshipping Witch to the Heresy of Being Irish: How the Kyteler Case Caused a Call for Crusade in Ireland.” International Congress of Medieval Studies, Kalamazoo, Michigan, May, 2014.
  • “Saint Samthann’s Righteous Wrath: Don’t Mess with this Abbess.” International Congress of Medieval Studies, Kalamazoo, Michigan, May, 2013.
  • “A Pagan Resurgence in Twelfth-Century Ireland? Aodh Eanghach, Gerald of Wales, and Laudabiliter, Considered.” Annual Meeting of the American Society of Church History, Chicago, Illinois, January, 2012.
  • “One State, Many Faiths: Religious Diversity in Iowa.” Upper Midwest Meeting of the American Academy of Religion, St Paul, Minnesota, April, 2011. Co-presented with two of my students, Madison Fiedler and Hannah Landgraf.
  • My Talk of Iowa interview with Charity Nebbe, Gurwinder Singh Kapur, a practicing Sikh, Prakash Kopparapu of the Hindu temple and Cultural Center of Iowa, and Reverend Dave Sickelka, pastor for the Urbandale United Church of Christ.
  • My articles in the Irish Times
  • IPR piece about teaching college students about religious diversity