The closing ceremony - billed as the Festival of the Flame - lived up to its name as flame throwers, blazing torches and a gigantic heart of fire lit up the Olympic Stadium.
An awed audience roared with delight.
Minutes earlier, they had been moved by the grit and determination of legless war hero Captain Luke Sinnott - who hauled himself up a flagpole to proudly fly the Union Flag.
The courageous 32-year-old lost his limbs in 2010 after volunteering to search an area "saturated" with improvised explosive devices to protect his comrades.
Organisers described his role in the ceremony as "a supreme feat of strength and courage".
Stephen Daldry, London 2012's executive producer for all the opening and closing ceremonies described the flag unveiling as "devastatingly emotional".
Capt Sinnott, a keen sailor, is working towards his dream of competing at the Rio 2016 Paralympics in a boat funded by Help for Heroes.
Comrades from the charity played a key role in the opening minutes of the ceremony to support Capt Sinnott.
The team joined forces to manoeuvre a heavy-wheeled machine to raise the flagpole.
Closing ceremonies artistic director Kim Gavin said: "We worked quite hard since April to get their performance right - it is really their endeavour.
"It is really a team effort from their point of view and has been quite emotional when you go down there and have worked with them.
"They are a fantastic bunch of people and they have been so collaborative as well."
Fifty four drummers created an avenue through which the Earl of Wessex, representing the Queen, and International Paralympic Committee chairman Sir Philip Craven entered the stadium.
They arrived in a custom-built car that began life as a military vehicle used in Afghanistan and was driven by Captain Tony Harris, who lost his left leg below the knee when he was caught in a blast in Sangin, Afghanistan in 2009.
Blind autistic singer Lissa Hermans, who also performed at the Queen's Diamond Jubilee this year, sang the National Anthem.
The spectacular and moving ceremony was another display of creativity and British eccentricity, and featured global megastars Coldplay, Rihanna and Jay-Z.
Coldplay frontman Chris Martin said: "Being asked to play at the closing celebrations for the Paralympic athletes in London is such a great honour for us.
"It was one of the biggest nights of our lives and we were excited to try to create a performance for the last night of the games that closed London 2012 in style."
Rihanna said: "Being at the Paralympics is the biggest honour. These athletes are gladiators and are a true inspiration to me."
The audience roared as Britain's joint flagbearers wheelchair racer David Weir and cyclist Sarah Storey, who each won four golds, were joined by athletes from each country.
The ceremony included some stunning effects and over 1,000 performers, including a cast of disabled artists, who had spent weeks learning circus skills for the show.
Soldier Rory Mackenzie, whose leg was blown off by a roadside bomb in Iraq, praised Paralympians' "indomitable human spirit."
He told the crowd: "Tonight we bring you the Festival of the Flame, the symbol of the spirit of the Games, which has burned bright at London 2012.
"Tonight we celebrate that spirit and although we have many differences, there is one quality we all share, one thing all of us have in common: human spirit.
"We have all been touched by the triumphs and drama of the Paralympics, witness to the indomitable human spirit of the athletes.
"We have come together in peace for the Games and through that respect for each other, found hope for the future."
London mayor Boris Johnson passed the Paralympic Flag to the mayor of Rio Eduardo Paes.
Teenage swimming star - and face of the games - Ellie Simmonds, 17, was joined by sprinting sensation Jonnie Peacock, 19, to play a part in the final moments of the Games.
As the Paralympic cauldron was extinguished they transferred the final flame to a London Paralympic Torch, which was then used to light hundreds of torches held by members of the cast throughout the field of play.
Fountains of water rose from circular stages to finally extinguish the Paralympic Flame.
The stunning send-off ended with a spectacular firework display that flashed over the Olympic Stadium and Park.
Fireworks lit up the sky along the Thames, including Tower Bridge and the words "Thank you London, thank you UK" were projected onto the Houses of Parliament.