There are at least an estimated 700,000
metal padlocks on the railings of the Pont des Arts, the pedestrian bridge that crosses the River Seine to the Louvre. The locks are painted with couples’ names and are symbols of lasting love. The railings are made of metal mesh, but there are so many locks that people can no longer see through the mesh. This is also because most of the railings are now boarded up on the pedestrian side. This was done because a 5-foot section came crashing down in June, due to the weight of the locks. Luckily the heavy railing fell onto the bridge and not into the river, where it could have injured someone in a boat below. Another section was taken down before it could fall: it weighed 1,100 pounds!
Paris receives millions of tourists every year, and many of them love putting locks on the Pont des Arts, a practice that started about 7 years ago.
No-one is sure what started the “love lock” craze. Some link it to two Italian novels, printed in 1992 and 2006 (“I Want You” by Federico Moccia). Others say it dates back to 19th century Hungary or to World War 1 Serbia. The idea has spread to other parts of Paris (we saw some locks on railings up at Sacre Coeur), and in many cities in England, Russia, Italy, Ireland, Canada, Germany, Hungary, Slovenia and China, to name a few.
The practice works like this: Attach a lock to a bridge railing, throw the key in the river, and make a wish. Or use a fence, gate or other public fixture. Seems harmless enough, until we hear about sections of railings falling down! Some people also complain that the keys make the river dirty.
Whatever people think, though, it seems the practice is here to stay and a week or so ago when in Paris we walked on the Pont des Arts. Thousands of others were doing the same, and all were having great fun pointing out various locks and names and taking lots of pictures. Enterprising vendors were still on the bridge selling locks, and we saw a few folks buying a lock. So, I doubt the craze will just tamely go away!
Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo obviously
would like to solve the problem of too many locks without changing the idea that Paris is the capital of love. One suggestion has been to use ribbons instead of locks, or to put the locks in a different place, other than a bridge. I wonder if that will catch on?
When we were there last week it was our wedding anniversary. We didn’t attach a lock, but it did seem somehow an appropriate place to stop and think about all our years together, in the midst of all that love!