A Parisian tradition is ending. The city of lights and lovers, Paris, has said “C’est Fini” to the “love locks” people have placed on bridges over the River Seine.
For nearly a decade, couples visiting Paris (and some locals) have had a custom of permanently sealing their love and leaving a piece of the behind by writing their names on a padlock, affixing it to the fence on the Pont des Arts bridge and throwing away the key. But, starting on Monday, the city will begin removing the symbols of unbreakable (without bolt cutters at least) love.
The tourist trend was established to symbolize permanent bonds. Most considered it a quaint, innocent way to leave their names behind in Paris and it made a great photo to send back home. However, there are now an estimated one million padlocks on that metal bridge rail as well as on others. (People started putting them elsewhere, such as the Pont de ‘Archeveche by Notre Dame Cathedral, when the Ponts des Arts became almost a solid wall of locks.)
For some time, the city has tried to discourage the practice. The Parisian officials asked people to take selfies of themselves in front of the lock-covered railings and post the photo as a permanent online symbol of locking their love. But, that campaign has not been successful.
The city hall statement claimed the locks were “a lasting degradation of the heritage of Paris. The government also maintained that the locks are a safety hazard for everyone. They weigh an estimated 45 tons and have threatened safety before. A portion of the Pont des Arts bridge collapsed last year; the cause was believed to have been the tremendous weight of the locks in that area.
Reportedly the city plans to completely redo the bridge railings. It is believed that they intend to cover the bridge sides on the Pont des Arts, and presumably other bridges with glass panels that will be easy to clean off in the inevitable event of graffiti. (Perhaps a new tradition will be for people to put their names?)
Paris is not the only city where the love locks have appeared. The original source is believed to have been an Italian novel for teens called I Want You, that was published in 2006. The Wall Street Journal reported that the novel featured two young lover who immortalized their bond with a padlock on a Roman bridge and tossed the key into the Tiber River to solidify it. Since then, padlocks symbolizing people locked in love have appeared in other cities, but the tradition really became known and followed in Paris. Even if couples are unaware of the origins, they see the locks on bridges near major tourist sites like Notre Dame, the Louvre and the Musée d’Orsay and follow suit.
It will take the city a while to remove all the locks. But, as Paris proclaims “C’est fini” to the love locks tradition couple will have to settle for romantic walks along the Seine or the Avenue des Champs-Élysées and those selfies showing “We were there” as proof of their love.
By Dyanne Weiss
New York Daily News: Paris to start removing almost 1 million ‘love locks’ left by couples on two of the city’s bridges
USA Today: Paris removes all ‘love locks’ from Pont des Arts bridge
Newsweek: C’est Fini, L’Amour: Paris to Cut ‘Love Locks’