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 there are those created through such natural phenomena as natural gas leaks, peat fires and coal seam fires, all of which can be initially ignited by lightning, piezoelectricity or human activity, and all of which can burn for decades or centuries.
In ancient times human-tended eternal flames were fueled by wood or olive oil; modern examples most often use a piped supply of propane or natural gas. Eternal flames are most often used to commemorate a person or event of national significance, or to serve as a reminder of commitment to a common goal such as international peace.
Religious and cultural significance 
The eternal fire is a long-held 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 considered collectively to be 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 meaning as a reminder of the six million Jews killed in the Holocaust.
In China, it has at times been common to establish an eternally lit lamp as a visible aspect of ancestor veneration, in which case it is set in front of a spirit tablet on the family's ancestral altar.
The eternal flame commemorating American President John F. Kennedy following his assassination in 1963 is believed to be the first such memorial built in honor of a single, known individual (as opposed to flames commemorating one or more unknown soldiers). In the wake of the Kennedy memorial, eternal flames would be used more often throughout the world to honor persons of national or international significance.
Around the world 
- One of the three "Great Flames" of the Achaemenid Empire, extinguished during the reign of Alexander the Great to honour the death of his close friend Hephaestion in 324 BC.
- The eternal flame that 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 AD 70). 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 and was extinguished in the year 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.
- The Olympic Flame is a kind of eternal flame which is kept lit throughout the Olympic Games and extinguished after their closure every four years.
- Berlin, Germany, at the Theodor-Heuss-Platz
- Munich, Germany, in the (Square of the Victims of National Socialism (Platz der Opfer des Nationalsozialismus)
- Madonna del Ghisallo, Italy, near Lake Como, for all cyclists who have died
- Rome, Italy, on the Altare della Patria, for the Unknown Soldier
- Amsterdam, Netherlands, at the Hollandsche Schouwburg, in memorial of the Dutch Jewish people who were killed in WW2
- Maastricht, Netherlands. At the Market Square there is a statue of Jan Pieter Minckeleers, a Dutch scientist and inventor. He discovered illuminating gas (coal gas) and he was the inventor of gas lighting.
- The Hague, Netherlands, at the Peace Palace, dedicated to the idea of international peace
- Moscow, Russia, at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in the Alexander Garden to honor the dead of the Great Patriotic War
- Saint Petersburg, Russia, 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, Russia, also 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, Russia, has two eternal flames. One at the war memorial and the other close to the Triumphal Arch.
- Tolyatti, Russia, at the Obelisk of Glory, lit in 1978
- Samara, Russia, 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 has an ethernal flame, located on Kommunarov Square. In 1919 there were buried dead soldiers in a common grave, and since 1959, lit the eternal flame and a granite obelisk.
- Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain, 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 the Spanish on the siege of 1714. The torch with the eternal flame was inaugurated in 2001.
- Madrid, Spain, at the Plaza de la Lealtad. The Monumento a los Caidos por España honours all those who have died fighting for Spain.
- Kiev, Ukraine, in the Glory Park at the Glory Obelisk and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, honoring the dead of the Great Patriotic War.
- Vinnytsia, Ukraine, the Glory memorial.
- Yerevan, Armenia, in the center of the Armenian Genocide Memorial
- Baku, Azerbaijan, at the Martyrs' Lane in memory of the military and civilian victims of the Black January and Nagorno-Karabakh War
- Minsk, Belarus, at the Victory Square to honor the heroes and partisans of the Great Patriotic War
- Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina, at the Eternal flame (Sarajevo) in memory of the military and civilian victims of the Second World War
- Sofia, Bulgaria, at the Monument to the Unknown Soldier
- Zagreb, Croatia, in front of the Ministry of Internal Affairs in memory of the police officers killed in the Croatian War of Independence
- Paris, France, under the archway at the Arc de Triomphe, which has burned continuously since 1921, in memory of all who died in World War I, and Arras, France-Notre Dame De Lorette war memorial.
- Helsinki, Finland, a flame dedicated to all travellers on the sea, espescially in troubled waters. 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.
- Tbilisi, Republic of Georgia, at the roundabout and underpass of Hero's Square
- Budapest, Hungary, in Kossuth Square commemorating the revolutionaries of the 1956 uprising against control by the Soviet Union
- Dublin, Ireland, at the junction of Amiens St and Memorial Road, the Universal Links on Human Rights by Amnesty International, honoring prisoners of conscience
- Riga, Latvia, at Brothers' Cemetery
- Kaunas, Lithuania, at the Tomb of Unknown Soldier, in the Square of Unity in front of the Vytautas the Great War Museum.
- Luxembourg, Luxembourg, near the Place du Saint-Esprit, in memory of all Luxembourgers fallen in World War II.
- Chişinău, Moldova, a flame dedicated to Chişinău's unknown soldiers who died in World War II
- Tiraspol, Transnistria, a flame dedicated to losses of the War of Transnistria.
- Oslo, Norway, 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.
- Näfels, Switzerland at the St. Hilarius Parish Church, in atonement for a 14th-century murder
- Liverpool, England, United Kingdom at the Anfield stadium, in memorial to those who died in the Hillsborough disaster
North America 
- The Flame of Hope in London, Ontario, at 442 Adelaide Street, where Sir Frederick Banting did theoretical work leading to the discovery of human insulin. It will remain lit until diabetes is cured.
- 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 Eternal Flame in the Peace Garden of Toronto City Hall, lit by His Holiness Pope John Paul II in September 1984, symbolizes the hope and regeneration of mankind.
United States 
- Cherokee People Eternal Flame located on the Qualla Boundary in Cherokee, NC first lit on the Oklahoma Cherokee Reservation and carried as hot coals back to the homeland.
- 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, 2001 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.
- 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 to honor those who perished in World War II
- 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 Springs Park in honor of John F. Kennedy
- Washington Square (Philadelphia), site of the city's Tomb of the Unknown Soldier
- 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 soldier 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; the combination of fire and water is especially striking after dusk.
- Auburn, California, on the corner of Fulweiler St. and Nevada St. depicts a soldier carrying a fallen comrade. The statue is named 'Why'.
- 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 babies, 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.
- 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, was lit November 22, 1964 the first anniversary of his death.
South America 
- In the National Flag Memorial (Argentina) in Rosario, Santa Fe
- In the 'Monument to the dead of the Falklands War' (Caidos en Malvinas) in Mar del Plata, Buenos Aires
- In the Battle of Boyacá Memorial in Boyacá.
- In the Lost Soldiers Memorial (Monumento a los Caidos) in Bogotá D.C.
- In the ANZAC War Memorial, Hyde Park in Sydney, New South Wales
- In the Shrine of Remembrance in Melbourne, Victoria
- 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
- At the downmarket Aboriginal Tent Embassy of Canberra, Australia
- 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.
- An eternal flame in Mrapen village, Central Java, is a natural eternal flame created through geological phenomena; the leaking of natural gas from the ground and it was ignited by the fire. The flame never extinguished although in the middle of rain and winds. It was unknown since when the gas leakage was ignited, but the Mrapen flame is already known since 15th century Demak Sultanate era. It was mentioned that the sacred kris heirloom dagger of Demak Sultanate were forged in Mrapen flame. The Mrapen flame is considered as a sacred flame in Javanese culture and used in annual Waisak Buddhist ceremony to be brought to Mendut and Borobudur temple. It was also used for several torch relay for multi sport events held in Indonesia such like Pekan Olahraga Nasional held every four years, 1997 Southeast Asian Games, 2008 Asian Beach Games, and 2011 Southeast Asian Games.
- 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 Unknown Soldier in the Heroes' Cemetery in Taguig City
South Korea 
- At the Peace Gate at Olympic Park, Seoul, South Korea
- Türkmenbaşy, the Victory Monument
- Accra, Ghana: the Eternal Flame of African Liberation
- Harare, Zimbabwe: An eternal flame burns atop the Kopje to commemorate independence.
- Pretoria, South Africa: An eternal flame burns in the Voortrekker Monument.
Spontaneous natural flames 
- A coal mine fire in Centralia, Pennsylvania has been burning beneath the borough since 1962.
- The Eternal Flame Falls can be found in the Shale Creek Preserve, Chestnut Ridge Park in New York, United States.
- There is an area producing natural spontaneous flames in Olympos National Park, Turkey.
- There is an eternal flame in Guanziling, Taiwan, as a result of methane gas.
- Flaming Geyser State Park in Washington, United States.
- Coal Field Fire in Jharia, India is known to have been burning since almost a century.
- There is an area in India, worshiped by Hindus as Jwala Devi Temple, or Jwalamukhi Devi Temple. The area, located in Great Himalayas is producing natural spontaneous flames and is said to be doing so from thousands of years.
- An eternal flame in Australia, fueled by a coal seam instead of natural gas. Called "Burning Mountain", it is claimed to be the world's longest burning fire, at 6,000 years old.
- The Door to Hell, near Derweze, Turkmenistan, is a large hole leaking natural gas that has been burning since 1971.
- Eternal Flame near Kirkuk, Iraq. Locals call it Baba Gurgur and say it has been burning thousands of years.
- Eternal Flame at the Yanar Dag mud volcano in Azerbaijan
- In the central Javanese village of Manggarmas in Indonesia, the Mrapen is a famous natural gas-based eternal flame originally ignited sometime before the 15th century; it has never died out despite intense tropical rain and winds.
See also 
- Fire worship
- Longest-lasting light bulbs
- Lux Aeterna (disambiguation)
- Olympic flame
- Perpetual stew
- Sanctuary lamp
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to: Eternal flames|
- 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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- Noted by Pausanias (10.24.5) in the second century CE and earlier mentioned by Herodotus (7.141) and Euripides (Iphigeneia in Tauris)
- Eternal fire at Mamayev Kurgan - photo
- Eternal fire at The Square of the Fallen Fighters in Volgograd - photo
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