The death of Mandela will send South Africa deep into mourning and self-reflection nearly 20 years after he led the country from racial apartheid to inclusive democracy.
But his passing will also be keenly felt by people around the world who revered Mandela as one of history's last great statesmen, and a moral paragon comparable with Mohandas Gandhi and Martin Luther King.
It was a transcendent act of forgiveness after spending 27 years in prison, 18 of them on Robben Island, that will assure his place in history. With South Africa facing possible civil war, Mandela sought reconciliation with the white minority to build a new democracy.
He led the African National Congress (ANC) to victory in the country's first multiracial election in 1994. Unlike other African liberation leaders who cling to power, such as Zimbabwe's Robert Mugabe, he then voluntarily stepped down after one term.
Mandela, often affectionately known by his clan name, Madiba‚, was awarded the Nobel peace prize in 1993.
At his inauguration a year later, the new president said: "Never, never, and never again shall it be that this beautiful land will again experience the oppression of one by another ... the sun shall never set on so glorious a human achievement. Let freedom reign. God bless Africa!"
I can add nothing to those words above.