Eternal flame

For other uses, see Eternal flame (disambiguation).
For the concept in the work of J.R.R. Tolkien, see Flame Imperishable.
Nizhny Novgorod Kremlin eternal flame memorializing losses during World War Two.

An eternal flame is a flame, lamp or torch that burns continuously for an indefinite period. Most eternal flames are ignited and tended intentionally, but some are natural phenomena caused by natural gas leaks, peat fires and coal seam fires, all of which can be initially ignited by lightning, piezoelectricity or human activity, some of which have burned for thousands of years.

In ancient times, human-tended eternal flames were fueled by wood or olive oil; modern examples usually use a piped supply of propane or natural gas. Human-created eternal flames most often commemorate a person or event of national significance, serve as a symbol of an enduring nature such as a religious belief, or a reminder of commitment to a common goal, such as diplomacy.

Religious and cultural significance

The eternal fire is a long-standing tradition in many cultures and religions. In ancient Iran the atar was tended by a dedicated priest and represented the concept of "divine sparks" or Amesha Spenta, as understood in Zoroastrianism. Period sources indicate that three "great fires" existed in the Achaemenid era of Persian history, which are collectively considered the earliest reference to the practice of creating ever-burning community fires.[1]

The eternal flame was a component of the Jewish religious rituals performed in the Tabernacle and later in the Temple in Jerusalem, where a commandment required a fire to burn continuously upon the Outer Altar.[2] Modern Judaism continues a similar tradition by having a sanctuary lamp, the ner tamid, always lit above the ark in the synagogue. After World War II, such flames gained further meaning, as a reminder of the six million Jews killed in the Holocaust.

The Cherokee Nation maintained a fire at the seat of government until ousted by the Indian Removal Act in 1830. At that time, embers from the last great council fire were carried west to the nation's new home in the Oklahoma Territory. The flame, maintained in Oklahoma, was carried back to the last seat of the Cherokee government at Red Clay State Park in south-eastern Tennessee, to the Museum of the Cherokee Indian in Cherokee, North Carolina, and to the Cherokee Nation Tribal Complex in Talequah, Oklahoma.[3]

In China, it has at times been common to establish an eternally lit lamp as a visible aspect of ancestor veneration; it is set in front of a spirit tablet on the family's ancestral altar.[4]

The eternal flame commemorating American President John F. Kennedy after his assassination in 1963 is believed to be the first such memorial to honor a single, known individual (as opposed to flames commemorating one or more unknown soldiers). In the wake of the Kennedy memorial, eternal flames have been used throughout the world to honor persons of national or international significance.

Extinguished flames

A prismatically broken eternal flame at World War II memorial in East Berlin.

Current manmade eternal flames






Bosnia and Herzegovina

Eternal Flame in Sarajevo











The eternal flame at Brothers' Cemetery, Riga, Latvia














Eternal Flame in Vinnytsia

United Kingdom

North America


United States

Eternal flame war memorial in Bowman, South Carolina



South America

The Pira da Liberdade, Brazilian eternal flame, in São Paulo





Eternal flame at the Shrine of Remembrance, Brisbane, Queensland, Australia





Peace Flame at the Peace Memorial Museum in Hiroshima, Japan



Bishkek eternal flame



An eternal flame is featured on the old Philippine 1000-peso bill.

South Korea





South Africa


Trinidad and Tobago


Naturally fueled flames

Fires of Chimera at Yanartaş, Çıralı, Turkey
"The Door to Hell" gas deposit, nearby Derweze, Turkmenistan, has been burning since 1971.

Fueled by natural gas

Fueled by coal seams

See also


Wikimedia Commons has media related to Eternal flames.
  1. Takht-e Sulaiman – UNESCO World Heritage Centre
  2. Leviticus 6:12: "And the fire upon the altar shall be burning in it; it shall not be put out: and the priest shall burn wood on it every morning, and lay the burnt offering in order upon it; and he shall burn thereon the fat of the peace offerings" Biblos Cross-referenced Holy Bible (King James version)
  3. 1 2 From the First Rising Sun: The Real Prehistory of the Cherokee People and Nation According to Oral Traditions, Legends, and Myths. Charla Jean Morris. Author House, Bloomington, IN: 2011. Page xvii.
  4. "Settling the Dead: Funerals, Memorials, and Beliefs Concerning the Afterlife". Asia for Educators, Columbia University. Retrieved 2010-05-04.
  5. Noted by Pausanias (10.24.5) in the second century CE and earlier mentioned by Herodotus (7.141) and Euripides (Iphigeneia in Tauris)
  6. "Apagan la "Llama Eterna de la Libertad" encendida por Pinochet". ABC Color (in Spanish). October 19, 2004. Retrieved February 22, 2013.
  7. "Merenkulkijoiden ja mereen menehtyneiden muistomerkki". Julkiset veistokset (in Finnish). Helsingin kaupungin taidemuseo. Retrieved December 10, 2014.
  8. Eternal fire at Mamayev Kurgan – photo
  9. Eternal fire at The Square of the Fallen Fighters in Volgograd – photo
  10. Wallace, Ellen (December 22, 2012). "Eternal flame in Canton Glarus may go out". Geneva Lunch. Retrieved 2012-12-22.
  11. Krummenacher, Jörg (December 22, 2012). "Keine Versöhnung vor dem ewigen Licht". Neue Zürcher Zeitung. Retrieved 2012-12-22.
  12. "Eternal Flame: Daley Plaza, Chicago, Illinois, 60601". Retrieved December 14, 2014.
  13. "Tomb of the Unknown Soldier". Independence Hall Association. Archived from the original on January 11, 2015. Retrieved December 14, 2014.
  14. Glenn D. Porter (August 31, 2004). "Eternal Flame Is Out, But Who Cares?". Retrieved December 14, 2014.
  15. "POW/MIA Reflection Pond and Eternal Flame". Ohio Veterans Memorial Park. Retrieved April 14, 2015.
  16. Nihonsankei. "Miyajima". The three most scenic spots in Japan. Retrieved 2007-06-25.
  17. Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum (2000). "Guided Tours to Peace Memorial Park and Vicinity". Hiroshima Peace Site. Retrieved 2007-06-25.
  18. "Things to do in Lumbini". BBC. Retrieved 2012-12-23.
  19. "The Red House". Parliament of Trinidad and Tobago. Retrieved August 6, 2016.
  20. Hosgormez, H.; Etiope, G.; Yalçin, M. N. (November 2008). "New evidence for a mixed inorganic and organic origin of the Olympic Chimaera fire (Turkey): a large onshore seepage of abiogenic gas". Geofluids. 8 (4): 263–273. doi:10.1111/j.1468-8123.2008.00226.x. Retrieved July 17, 2011.
  21. "Obor SEA Games XXVI Mulai Diarak dari Mrapen" (in Indonesian). Tempo Interaktif. October 23, 2011. Retrieved 2011-11-07.
  22. Krajick, Kevin (May 2005). "Fire in the hole". Smithsonian Magazine. Smithsonian Institution: 54ff. Retrieved 2006-10-24.
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