St. Drythelm of Melrose Abbey, 700
I love this place.
Drythelm was a monk of the abbey of Melrose in the Scottish border country, and died about 700. When living as a layman in Ayrshire he underwent a 'near death' experience, from which he recovered, and which terrified those who had come to mourn him. The experience brought about a change of life; he divided his property between his wife, his sons, and the poor, and joined the Melrose community. He was also influenced by a vision which he saw on the life of the beyond, which he was to write down, amid which was to be the earliest of its kind in these islands. In its complex understanding of the divisions of hell, purgatory and paradise, it anticipated the much more famous "Divine Comedy" of Dante written some 600 years later.
Drythelm's monastic life style was extremely austere; he would stand in the waters of the River Tweed even in the depths of winter reciting the psalms. Venerable Bede gives a full account of his life in his Ecclesiastical History.