The Parisian Love Locks

The Parisian Love Locks

We had Valentine’s Day this week, and I’m not quite ready to let it go. So, we’re doing something a bit different on the blog today, looking at one unconventional way locks have made their way into popular culture.

the Pont des Arts covered in padlocks with the Louvre in the background This has been a trend around the world for centuries, although the Pont des Arts is perhaps the most famous case. The tradition of hooking locks to this Paris bridge is thought to have been inspired by I Want You, a novel by Federico Moccia which was published in the early 2000s. Shortly after, young couples started attaching locks to bridges throughout Europe in emulation of two characters in the book. Paris, widely known as “the city of love” became a natural target of this romantic vandalism.

With its prime location near the Louvre, the iron grate of the Pont des Arts quickly became a solid wall of locks as tourists flocked to leave their mark over the next 10 years.

piles of locks being removed from the Pont des Arts

There were over 700,000 locks this time two years ago, equaling over 45 tons of weight. Eventually, this became too much, and the bridge began to fall apart. The grates, 100 years old in parts, began to tear from their supports, and entire panels were on the verge of collapse. After that, it became clear to Parisian officials that, while certainly a nice thought, the safety risks stemming from 10 years of these locks outweighed the sentimentality of them. So in 2015, the dismantling process began.

the new Pont des Arts made of plexiglass with a view of the SeineThis ending is bittersweet though. While it’s certainly sad to see this tradition disappear, there are some bright spots. For one, the new bridge, reinforced with plexiglass and additional anti-lock measures on the joints, offers a clear view of the Seine below. And the locks haven’t gone to waste either. In December, Paris city council announced that they would be auctioning off the locks. They expect to raise around $100,000, which will go to support services for refugees coming to France.

And while this particular bridge may have been the most popular, this practice is seen throughout the world. From South Korea…

locks on a rope fence in South Korea

…to Italy…

locks on a fence in Venice

locks on a fence in Florence

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

tree sculpture in Moscow covered in locks

…and even Moscow, where sculptures like this tree have been installed so people don’t overload the bridges, and the locks can be left as long as possible.

red padlock engraved with a heart shapeThere’s a metaphor in here somewhere, I’m sure. Maybe about how love endures? That you can find it anywhere you’re willing to look? Or maybe this is just one more example of the funny ways humans attach meaning to things and places, people and happenings, in an effort to create some permanence in an ever-changing world. In any case, we wish you the best this year, and hope you have many more to come with the people you love.