The Tradition of Love Locks on Bridges

It is Valentine’s Day, that special day each year where we celebrate love and affection.  It is a day for romance, celebrated on the feast day for Saint Valentine who was martyred in 269.  Apocryphal stories surround Valentine – he is said to have written the first “valentine” to the daughter of his jailer.  He may have even married Christian soldiers were forbidden to marry.

People continue to find strange ways to express their love for others.  One tradition is the use of a love lock.  Here is how it works.  A couple will purchase a padlock, etch their names or initials onto it, lock it to the railing of a bridge and then cast the keys into the water below.  The padlock symbolizes a love that is locked forever.

You’ve probably seen padlocks attached to the railing on a scenic bridge in your area.  But how did this tradition come about?

Love locks come in all types, sizes and colors. Courtesy of Yves Forestier.

The tradition appears to have started in Hungary.  A woman who lost the love of her life during the First World War began to fix padlocks to the bridges where her and her lover used to meet prior to the war.  The tradition caught on and continues today.

Indeed, no other city in the world seems to have picked up the trend like Paris has.  Many of the bridges crossing the Seine have thousands of padlocks attached to them.  Padlocks began to appear on Pont de Arts in 2008 but others such as Pont de l’Archevêché are also popular.

That’s a lot of locks! Courtesy of Yves Forestier.

In 2014, the tradition had become so popular that it caused a portion of railing on a bridge in Paris to collapse.  This problem has also cropped up in other areas, prompting local officials to have the locks removed.  Some places have signage that forbids the placing locks on bridges.

So many locks have been attached to Ponts de Arts in Paris, that local officials will be removing them. Courtesy of Yves Forestier.

Local Parisians have also complained that the locks detract from the beauty of the City of Love.  A scar on the face of Paris.  But that could also describe the iconic glass pyramid above the entrance to the Louvre, most notably by the Da Vinci Code’s Bezu Fache. So next time you’re in love and want to affix a permanent token of your love in a public space, just be aware of the load that your lock is putting on the bridge.  Or just carve your initials into a tree…

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Nick Rodda

I am an aspiring blogger with an interest in all things bridge related. This blog is dedicated to informing readers about the latest developments in bridge engineering. Look for new posts periodically!

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