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.
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. 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.
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.
- One of the three "Great Flames" of the Achaemenid Empire was extinguished during the reign of Alexander the Great to honour the death of his close friend Hephaestion in 324 BC.
- An eternal flame was kept burning in the inner hearth of the Temple of Delphic Apollo at Delphi in Greece until Delphi was sacked by the Roman general Sulla in 87 BC.
- The Hebrew Bible commands that "The fire shall ever be burning upon the altar; it shall never go out" (Leviticus 6:13, KJV), regarding the altar of Burnt Offering in the Tabernacle, and later the altars in Solomon's Temple and the Second Temple (the latter sacked by Rome in 70 AD). Many churches (especially Catholic and Lutheran), along with Jewish synagogues, feature an eternal flame on or hung above their altars (churches) or Torah arks (synagogues). When a church is founded, the flame is passed from another church and the candles are regularly replaced to keep the original flame burning.
- The Sacred fire of Vesta in Ancient Rome, which burned within the Temple of Vesta on the Roman Forum, was extinguished in 394 AD.
- The eternal flame near the Bronze Soldier of Tallinn in Estonia was extinguished after the country gained independence from the USSR in 1991.
- An eternal flame was part of the East German "Memorial to the Victims of Fascism and Militarism" at Neue Wache in East Berlin. It was removed after the 1990 German reunification. In 1993, the space was redesigned and rededicated (without a flame) as the "Central Memorial of the Federal Republic of Germany for the Victims of War and Tyranny".
- Llama de la Libertad lit by Augusto Pinochet in 1975 in to commemorate the 1973 Chilean coup d'etat against Salvador Allende. It was extinguished in 2004.
- A 23-metre (75 ft) high eternal flame monument named "Večna vatra" was erected in Belgrade in 2000, to commemorate the victims of 1999 NATO bombing of Yugoslavia. The flame was extinguished months later.
Current manmade eternal flames
- Baku, at the Martyrs' Lane in memory of the military and civilian victims of the Black January and Nagorno-Karabakh War
Bosnia and Herzegovina
- Sarajevo, the Sarajevo eternal flame (Vječna vatra), in memory of the military and civilian victims of the Second World War
- Zagreb, in front of the Ministry of Internal Affairs in memory of the police officers killed in the Croatian War of Independence
- Sisak, in Dr. Franjo Tuđman Park, in front of city market and swimming pool, in memory of soldiers fallen in the Croatian War of Independence
- Helsinki, a lighthouse-like memorial in the suburb of Eira. Originally erected in honour of the Finnish seamen and seafaring. It has later also become a symbol of those who have perished at the sea, the Baltic Sea in particular. A minor controversy arose when the flame was temporarily extinguished, to conserve gas, technically meaning the flame was not an eternal one. It has been relit however.
- Paris, under the archway at the Arc de Triomphe, which has burned continuously since 1921, in memory of all who died in World War I.
- Arras, at the Notre Dame de Lorette war memorial.
- Tbilisi, at the roundabout and underpass of Hero's Square
- Berlin, at the Theodor-Heuss-Platz
- Munich, in the Square of the Victims of National Socialism (Platz der Opfer des Nationalsozialismus)
- Budapest, in Kossuth Square, commemorating the revolutionaries of the 1956 uprising against control by the Soviet Union
- Dublin at the junction of Amiens St and Memorial Road, the Universal Links on Human Rights by Amnesty International, honoring prisoners of conscience
- Dublin, at a new monument to Irish emigrants. On June 18, 2013, a torch from the eternal flame at the John F. Kennedy grave at Arlington National Cemetery was used to light this flame.
- Madonna del Ghisallo, near Lake Como, for all cyclists who have died
- Rome, on the Altare della Patria, for the Unknown Soldier
- Riga, at Brothers' Cemetery or Cemetery of the Brethren (Brāļu Kapi), a military cemetery and national monument memorializing thousands of Latvian soldiers who were killed between 1915 and 1920 in World War I and the Latvian War of Independence. The memorial was built between 1924 and 1936, and designed by sculptor Kārlis Zāle.
- Kaunas, at the Tomb of Unknown Soldier, in the Square of Unity in front of the Vytautas the Great War Museum.
- Luxembourg, near the Place du Saint-Esprit, in memory of all Luxembourgers fallen in World War II.
- Chișinău, a flame dedicated to Chișinău's unknown soldiers who died in World War II
- Amsterdam, at the Hollandsche Schouwburg, in memorial of the Dutch Jewish people who were killed in World War II
- Maastricht, at the Market Square, a statue of Jan Pieter Minckeleers, a Dutch scientist and inventor who discovered illuminating gas (coal gas) and was the inventor of gas lighting.
- The Hague, at the Peace Palace, dedicated to the idea of international peace
- Oslo, inaugurated on June 9, 2001 at The Pier of Honour, Port of Oslo by Sri Chinmoy and installed permanently at the Aker Brygge complex in 2002.
- Batalha, at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier (inside the Batalha Monastery), honoring the Portuguese dead in the World War I, lit April 6, 1921
- Lisbon, at the Monument to the Overseas War Combatants, honoring the dead in the Portuguese Overseas War, lit January 15, 1994
- Moscow, at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in the Alexander Garden to honor the dead of the Great Patriotic War
- Saint Petersburg has two eternal flames. The first is at the Field of Mars in memory of those who died during the Bolshevik Revolution. The second is at Piskaryovskoye Memorial Cemetery in memory of those who perished in World War II during the Siege of Leningrad
- Volgograd has two eternal flames. The first is located at Mamayev Kurgan in the Hall of the Warrior Glory in tribute to all those who died defending the city from 1942–1943. The second is located at The Square of the Fallen Fighters on the monument of those who died defending in the Civil and Great Patriotic War
- Kursk has two eternal flames. One is located at the war memorial and the other close to the Triumphal Arch.
- Saratov has two eternal flames: in the Theatre Square and in the Victory Park
- Tolyatti, at the Obelisk of Glory, lit in 1978
- Samara, at the Obelisk of Glory
- Tver has an obelisk and an eternal flame nearby, located on Ploschad Pobedy near the confluence of the rivers T'maka and Volga, to honor the Soviet soldiers who fought against Nazi Germany in the Great Patriotic War (ru:Великая Отечественная война)
- Yekaterinburg, on Kommunarov Square, where dead soldiers were buried in a common grave in 1919. An eternal flame was lit at the site in 1959.
- Omsk, an eternal fire was lit in 1967 on Memorial Square, in honour of fallen soldiers in World War II.
- Ufa has two eternal flames. The first was lit in 1980 in Victory Park, honouring Alexander Matrosov and Minnigali Gubaidullin. The second was lit in 1967, honouring soldiers, who fell fighting for the Soviet Union.
- Salavat, opened in 1981. Honors Salavat citizens, who died during the Great Patriotic War.
- Arkhangelsk, in honor of fallen Northerners in 1941–1945
- Kolchugino, located on Lenin Square
- Novy Urengoy
- Oryol, an eternal fire was lit in 1967 on Tankman's Square.
- Belgrade, at the Ušće urban neighborhood in memory of the military and civilian victims of the NATO bombing of Serbia
- Barcelona, Catalonia, at the Fossar de les Moreres (adjacent to the Basílica de Santa Maria del Mar), honouring the Catalans buried there, who died defending Barcelona from those loyal to Philip V on the siege of 1714. The torch with the eternal flame was inaugurated in 2001.
- Madrid, at the Plaza de la Lealtad. The Monumento a los Caidos por España honours all those who have died fighting for Spain.
- Kiev, in the Glory Park at the Glory Obelisk and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, honoring the dead of the Great Patriotic War.
- Vinnytsia, the Glory memorial.
- Odessa, a monument to the unknown sailor.
- The Flame of Hope in London, Ontario, at 442 Adelaide Street, where Frederick Banting did theoretical work leading to the discovery of human insulin. It will remain lit until diabetes is cured. It was lit by Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother in 1989.
- The Centennial Flame in Ottawa, Ontario, first lit in 1967, is in the spirit of an eternal flame; however, it is annually extinguished for cleaning and then relit. It commemorates the first hundred years of Canadian confederation.
- The Centennial Flame on the grounds of the Alberta Legislature Building in Edmonton, Alberta commemorates the same milestone as its counterpart in Ottawa. The flame burns from a metallic cauldron and is located south along the walkway from the south entrance of the Legislature between the south side of Legislature Building Road NW and Fortway Drive NW. Another eternal flame is located on the grounds of the Legislature honours those fallen in the line of duty working for the province.
- The Eternal Flame in the Peace Garden in Nathan Phillips Square in front of Toronto City Hall.It was lit by His Holiness Pope John Paul II in September 1984 and symbolizes the hope and regeneration of mankind.
- The 2004 Olympic flame remains burning in a memorial park in the Greek town area of Toronto.
- The Cherokee maintained a fire at their seat of government, and carried coals to the Oklahoma Territory. Coals from that fire were used to relight the eternal flame at Red Clay State Park, Tennessee, the last seat of the independent Cherokee Nation.
- John F. Kennedy Eternal Flame in Arlington National Cemetery, Virginia, lit by Jacqueline Kennedy on November 25, 1963, during the assassinated president's state funeral
- Honolulu, Hawaii, USA to honor victims of the September 11 attacks
- Gettysburg Battlefield, Pennsylvania, in memory of the dead of the American Civil War, first lit by President Franklin Roosevelt in 1938
- Carrollton, Georgia, at the main entrance of the University of West Georgia, lit at the beginning of each school year
- Decatur, Georgia, at the square downtown, for the Korean War, World War II, and the Vietnam War
- Atlanta, Georgia, at the King Center, for assassinated civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr.
- Miami, Florida, at Bayfront Park on Biscayne Boulevard, is the Torch of Friendship for John F. Kennedy
- Washington, D.C., at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, first lit in 1993 by President Bill Clinton and noted Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel
- New York City, New York, at Ground Zero, lit by Mayor Michael Bloomberg on the first anniversary of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks upon the financial district of the city. It is currently temporarily located at Battery Park on the southern tip of Manhattan under The Sphere, which is a sculpture that had been recovered from the World Trade Center site. The eternal flame will be relocated to the World Trade Center location when the memorial there is completed.
- St. Clare's Church, honoring 29 parishioners who died as a result of the September 11 attacks in 2001.
- Koyasan Buddhist Temple in Los Angeles, where the Peace Flame directly taken from the torch at the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park in Japan is kept. The flame was brought to Los Angeles in 1989 by Mayor Tom Bradley and has been maintained by the resident priests ever since.
- Shanksville, Pennsylvania, to honor the crew and passengers aboard United Airlines Flight 93 on 9/11 in their efforts to thwart the hijacking
- Chicago, Illinois, at Daley Plaza, to honor those who perished in World War II. Ignited August 22, 1972, by Albina Nance, president of the Illinois Gold Star Mothers.
- Oral Roberts University, Tulsa, Oklahoma, atop the Prayer Tower, which represents the baptism of the Holy Spirit
- Newport News Victory Arch in Virginia, commemorating American servicemen and women
- Memphis, Tennessee, at the grave of Elvis Presley at his home "Graceland"
- University of California, Santa Barbara, houses an eternal flame on its campus.
- Bowman, South Carolina, lit in 1987 in honor and memory of the community's residents who died in World War I, World War II, and the Vietnam War
- Huntsville, Alabama, Big Spring Park in honor of John F. Kennedy
- Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Washington Square, site of the city's Tomb of the Unknown Soldier of the American Revolution and above the mass grave of thousands of Revolutionary War soldiers. Ignited in 1976, the flame has been extinguished at times for years due to poor maintenance.
- Lynchburg, Virginia, gravesite of Jerry Falwell at Liberty University
- Farmington Hills, Michigan, at the Holocaust Memorial Center in honor of those who perished during the Holocaust.
- Highland Park, Illinois, in the "Freedom's Sacrifice" veterans memorial located on the corner of St. John Ave and Central Avenue to remember the soldiers from Highland Park that gave their lives in the name of freedom.
- Pierre, South Dakota, at the Flaming Fountain (Veterans) Memorial on the shores of Capitol Lake. The flame is part of a fountain.
- Auburn, California, on the corner of Fulweiler St. and Nevada St. depicts a soldier carrying a fallen comrade. The statue is named 'Why'.
- Saint Louis, Missouri, Downtown, to commemorate the founding of the American Legion in 1919 by Theodore Roosevelt Jr.
- Saint Martinville, Louisiana, at the Acadian Memorial, symbolizing the survival of exiled Acadians as south Louisiana Cajuns.
- Redlands, California, in Jennie Davis Park (corner of Redlands Blvd. and New York St.), at the Veterans' Memorial
- La Mirada, California, in front of City Hall to honor the residents who have given their life for their country.
- Emmitsburg, Maryland, at the National Fallen Firefighters Memorial, on the grounds of the National Fire Academy
- Cincinnati, Ohio at the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center Represents the candles that were placed in the windows of Underground Railroad Supporters
- Canton, Ohio, Garden Center, incorporated into the city's memorial to the memory of President John F. Kennedy, dedicated in 1966
- Steubenville, Ohio, at the Tomb of the Unborn Child, the gravesite of seven aborted fetuses, on the campus of the Franciscan University of Steubenville.
- Flint, Michigan, in Downtown Flint, across from the Durant Hotel, to honor John F. Kennedy
- Pico Rivera, California, in front of the civic center, to honor Pico Rivera veterans who died in the line of duty.
- Columbus, Ohio, at Battelle Riverfront Park, to honor fallen members of the Columbus Fire Department.
- Clinton, Ohio, at Ohio Veterans Memorial Park. The monument is made up of a large sitting area that is surrounded by benches, a four tier waterfall, a fifty foot wide pond, a black granite POW/MIA monument, an inverted Vietnam War helmet with the eternal flame and a cast steel POW/MIA seal.
- Oakland, California, at the O.co Coliseum to honor the late Oakland Raiders owner Al Davis
- New Britain, Connecticut, at the National Iwo Jima Memorial to honor the memory of US servicemen who gave their lives at Iwo Jima.
- Springfield, Massachusetts, at Forest Park, John F. Kennedy Memorial Flame to honor the memory of President Kennedy. The flame was lit November 22, 1964 on the first anniversary of his death.
- Naperville, Illinois, on the City's Riverwalk to honor victims of September 11 Attacks.
- The Column of Independence, México City in memory of the heroes of the Mexican Independence War
- In the National Flag Memorial (Argentina) in Rosario, Santa Fe
- In the 'Monument to the dead of the Malvinas War' (Caidos en Malvinas) in Mar del Plata, Buenos Aires
- In the 'Parque da Independência', São Paulo, the Pira da Liberdade marks the site of the independence of Brazil
- Outside the 'Pantheon of Fatherland and Freedom, Tancredo Neves, Brasília, on top of a tower built on the diagonal, burns an eternal flame which represents the freedom of the people and the country's independence.
- In the ANZAC War Memorial, Hyde Park in Sydney
- In the Shrine of Remembrance in Melbourne
- In the Shrine of Remembrance in ANZAC Square in Brisbane, Queensland
- At the Australian War Memorial, Canberra, Australian Capital Territory
- At the state War Memorial in Kings Park, Western Australia
- In the Carillon War Memorial located at Bathurst, New South Wales
- New Delhi, India, at the Raj Ghat, in memory of Mahatma Gandhi at the site of his cremation. The date that this flame was first lit is not known at present.
- New Delhi, India, at the India Gate, first lit in 1971 to honor 90,000 soldiers, including an Unknown Warrior, who died in World War I and later conflicts
- Kargil War Memorial, Drass. The eternal flame was lit to glorify the Indian victory of 1999 and to pay homage to martyrs who laid down their lives for the cause of the nation.
- Andaman and Nicobar Islands, India, to remember the victims of the 2004 Asian Tsunami, unveiled in 2005
- Shirdi, India, at the Dwarka Mai Mosque, lit by Sai Baba of Shirdi in the late 1800s
- Some ancient temples in south India are known to have eternal flames burning since centuries. Most established temples (such as Tirumala-Tirupati, Mantralayam, etc.) have eternal flames.
- Tel Aviv, at Rabin Square, for assassinated Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin
- In Jerusalem at Yad Vashem, the national Holocaust-Memorial of Israel
- Near Jerusalem at Yad Kennedy, Israel's memorial to U.S. President John F. Kennedy
- At the Buddhist temple Daishō-in, at Mt. Misen, Itsukushima, where the flame is said to have been burning since AD 806, for more than 1,200 years
- Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park, to remain lit until all nuclear weapons in the world are abolished
- Almaty, the Monument to the Unknown Soldier (from Soviet times)
- Bishkek, the Victory (Pobedy) Monument
- Eternal Flame of Freedom in Corregidor
- Eternal Flame on the plot of the Tomb of the Former Soldier and President in the Heroes' Cemetery in Taguig City
- At the Peace Gate at Olympic Park, Seoul, South Korea
- Türkmenbaşy, the Victory Monument
- Pretoria, South Africa: An eternal flame burns in the Voortrekker Monument.
- Johannesburg, South Africa: The flame of democracy burns on Constitution Hill
Trinidad and Tobago
- Havana: Memorial to the Soviet Internationalist Soldier
- Havana: Museum of the Revolution in the Granma complex
- Santa Clara: Inside the Che Guevara Mausoleum
- Santa Clara: In the cemetery beside the Che Guevara Mausoleum complex
Naturally fueled flames
Fueled by natural gas
- At Yanartaş in the Olympos National Park in Turkey, natural gas burns from many vents on the side of the mountain. It is thought to be the location of ancient Mount Chimaera. This is the largest venting of abiogenic methane on Earth's terrestrial surface, and has been burning for over 2500 years. The flames were used in ancient times as a navigation beacon.
- The Eternal Flame Falls, featuring a small natural gas-fueled flame that burns behind a waterfall, can be found in Chestnut Ridge Park in Western New York, United States.
- There is an eternal flame in Guanziling, Taiwan, as a result of methane gas.
- Flaming Geyser State Park in Washington, United States.
- An area in India's Great Himalayas, worshiped by Hindus as Jwala Devi Temple, or Jwalamukhi Devi Temple, produces natural spontaneous flames and is said to have been doing so for thousands of years.
- The Door to Hell, near Derweze, Turkmenistan, is a large hole leaking natural gas that has been burning since 1971.
- An eternal flame near Kirkuk, Iraq, known to the locals as Baba Gurgur, is said to have been burning for thousands of years.
- An eternal flame is found at the Yanar Dag mud volcano in Azerbaijan.
- In the central Javanese village of Manggarmas in Indonesia, the Mrapen is a famous natural gas-fueled eternal flame originally ignited sometime before the 15th century Demak Sultanate era; it has never died out despite intense tropical rain and winds. It is said that the sacred kris heirloom dagger of Demak Sultanate were forged in this flame. The Mrapen flame, considered sacred in Javanese culture, is used in an annual Waisak Buddhist ceremony, brought to Mendut and Borobudur temple. It was also used in several torch relays for sport events such as Pekan Olahraga Nasional held every four years, 1997 Southeast Asian Games, 2008 Asian Beach Games, and 2011 Southeast Asian Games.
Fueled by coal seams
- A coal seam-fueled eternal flame in Australia known as "Burning Mountain" is claimed to be the world's longest burning fire, at 6,000 years old.
- A coal mine fire in Centralia, Pennsylvania, has been burning beneath the borough since 1962.
- A coal field fire in Jharia, India, is known to have been burning for almost a century.
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- Takht-e Sulaiman – UNESCO World Heritage Centre
- 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)
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