The man who ended the dark days of apartheid in South Africa, Nelson Mandela, lost his last struggle last night at the age of 95.
His death was announced by South African President Jacob Zuma who said the nation had lost "its greatest son".
"Although we knew this day was going to come, nothing can diminish our sense of a profound and enduring loss," he said.
Tributes have poured in from around the world for the Nobel Peace Prize winner, affectionately known as Madiba.
Archbishop Desmond Tutu, a fellow activist against apartheid, described him in The Independent as a "prophet of tolerance".
"He awed everyone as a spectacular embodiment of magnanimity and forgiveness, and he saved our land from the bloodbath that most had predicted would be our lot in resolving the problem, of apartheid's vicious oppression of the vast majority of our motherland's population," he said.
"Suffering can embitter, but it can also ennoble, and God blessed us richly when the latter happened in Madiba's case."
The Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Reverend Justin Welby, offered his prayers to the friends and family of Mandela, as well as the South African people.
"The death of President Nelson Mandela was announced in memorable words by president Zuma. South Africa has lost its greatest citizen and its father," he said.
"Nelson Mandela, fighting to the end, is freed to be with his God in joy and reward for his great service and sacrifice. We pray for his family, for his friends and for his country. We are challenged to show the same degree of humanity, of courage and of generosity."
British Prime Minister David Cameron said: "A great light has gone out in the world. Nelson Mandela was a hero of our time."
He has ordered the flag above Downing Street to fly at half mast as a mark of respect for Mandela.
"Nelson Mandela was a towering figure in our time; a legend in life and now in death - a true global hero," he said.
"Across the country he loved they will be mourning a man who was the embodiment of grace.
"Meeting him was one of the great honours of my life.
"My heart goes out to his family - and to all in South Africa and around the world whose lives were changed through his courage."
US President Barack Obama said: "We've lost one of the most influential, courageous and profoundly good human beings that any of us will share time with on this earth," he said.
"Through his fierce dignity and unbending will to sacrifice his own freedom for the freedom of others, Madiba transformed South Africa and moved all of us. His journey from a prisoner to a president embodied the promise that human beings and countries can change for the better."