Eternal flame

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For other uses, see Eternal flame (disambiguation).
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, 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 usually use a piped supply of propane or natural gas. Eternal flames most often commemorate a person or event of national significance, or serve as a reminder of commitment to a common goal, such as international peace.

Religious and cultural significance[edit]

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 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.

Around the world[edit]


A prismatically broken eternal flame at World War II memorial in East Berlin.
  • 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[5]
  • 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.

Current (man-made)[edit]


Bosnia and Herzegovina[edit]
Eternal Flame in Sarajevo
  • 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.[6]
The eternal flame at Brothers'Cemetery, Riga, Latvia
  • Eternal flame at Brothers' Cemetery or Cemetery of the Brethren, Riga. Brāļu Kapi is a military cemetery and national monument in Riga, capital of Latvia. The cemetery is a memorial to and burial ground for 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, to designs by the sculptor Kārlis Zāle.
  • Amsterdam, Netherlands, at the Hollandsche Schouwburg, in memorial of the Dutch Jewish people who were killed in World War II
  • At the Market Square in Maastricht, Netherlands, there is 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, Netherlands, at the Peace Palace, dedicated to the idea of international peace
Eternal Flame in Vinnytsia

North America[edit]

United States[edit]
Eternal flame war memorial in Bowman, South Carolina
Visitors drop flowers as they pay their respects at the tomb of Carlos Fonseca Amador at the Plaza de la Revolución (Revolution Square) in Managua, Nicaragua.

Tomb of Carlos Fonseca in the Central Park of Managua.

South America[edit]

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


Eternal flame at the Shrine of Remembrance, Brisbane, Queensland, 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.
Peace Flame at the Peace Memorial Museum in Hiroshima, Japan
  • Almaty, the Monument to the Unknown Soldier (from Soviet times)
  • Bishkek, the Victory (Pobedy) Monument
South Korea[edit]


  • Accra, Ghana: the Eternal Flame of African Liberation
South Africa[edit]



Naturally fueled[edit]

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[edit]

Fueled by coal seams[edit]

See also[edit]

External links[edit]


  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. ^ a b 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. ^ "Merenkulkijoiden ja mereen menehtyneiden muistomerkki". Julkiset veistokset (in Finnish). Helsingin kaupungin taidemuseo. Retrieved 10 December 2014. 
  7. ^ Eternal fire at Mamayev Kurgan - photo
  8. ^ Eternal fire at The Square of the Fallen Fighters in Volgograd - photo
  9. ^ Wallace, Ellen (2012-12-22). "Eternal flame in Canton Glarus may go out". Geneva Lunch. Retrieved 2012-12-22. 
  10. ^ Krummenacher, Jörg (2012-12-22). "Keine Versöhnung vor dem ewigen Licht". Neue Zürcher Zeitung. Retrieved 2012-12-22. 
  11. ^ Accessed 14 December 2014.
  12. ^ Accessed 14 December 2014.
  13. ^ Accessed 14 December 2014.
  14. ^ Nihonsankei. "Miyajima". The three most scenic spots in Japan. Retrieved 2007-06-25. 
  15. ^ Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum (2000). "Guided Tours to Peace Memorial Park and Vicinity". Hiroshima Peace Site. Retrieved 2007-06-25. 
  16. ^ "Things to do in Lumbini". BBC. Retrieved 2012-12-23. 
  17. ^ 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. 
  18. ^ "Obor SEA Games XXVI Mulai Diarak dari Mrapen" (in Indonesian). Tempo Interaktif. 2011-10-23. Retrieved 2011-11-07. 
  19. ^ Krajick, Kevin (May 2005). "Fire in the hole". Smithsonian Magazine (Smithsonian Institution): 54ff. Retrieved 2006-10-24.