2014 marked the end of an era in Paris, as they are removing all of the love locks on Pont des Arts bridge. While this was obviously necessary, as just last year a part of the bridge collapsed into the river under the weight of the locks – the romantic in me was a little crushed. So, I decided to look into where this romantic tradition started – and it’s not at all what I would have guessed!
My boyfriend and I placed our love lock on the bridge just last spring during a whirlwind 48 hour trip to Paris – and we happily joined the tradition of thousands of other lovers.
For any romantic anywhere in the world, you’ve heard of “love locks” and their symbol of eternal love. Although the most renowned place to lock your love is in Paris, France on the Pont des Arts bridge – the custom of love locks has spread around the world. I’ve found several love lock bridges here in Belgium and even one in Canada!
The idea of the ‘love lock’ is one that us romantics swoon over. There are literally hundreds of different stories behind the love lock and how it started, but the concept is always the same. A couple meets (in this case at Pont des Arts bridge), carves or writes their names on the lock, locks it to the bridge and throws both sets of keys into the river – signalling that their love will be eternal.
The original, earliest known story of the love lock dates back 100 years and takes place in Serbia, in a town called Vrnjacka Banja.
A local schoolmistress named Nada fell in love with a Serbian officer named Relja. After they committed to each other, Relja went to war near Greece. While stationed, he fell in love with a local women from Corfu.
As a consequence, Relja and Nada broke off their engagement. Nada never recovered and let herself go. She wouldn’t eat, wouldn’t sleep – she was lost. Eventually she died, her friends saying it was her heartbreak that took her.
As young women from her hometown wanted to protect their own loves, they started writing their names, with the names of their lovers, on padlock and attaching them to the railings of the bridge where Nada and Relja used to meet.
Which is why the end of the Paris love lock bridge is tragic – even though it was a necessary safety precaution (which we totally get, because there were literally thousands of heavy locks on that bridge…). On our visit, I was overwhelmed with emotion just thinking of all the love that this bridge has seen and what that represents.
The symbolic gesture of love spread world-wide eventually, and because Paris is known as the City of Love – it’s understandable that Paris became the heart of the tradition. If you’ve ever been in love, you’ve probably thought about going to Paris to attach your love lock to the bridge.
Love isn’t all that the bridge holds, unfortunately. The infamous love-lock bridge overlooking the Sienne is said to be carrying 165,000 POUNDS of extra weight because of the locks, which obviously is a huge stressor on the bridge itself.
In June of 2014 (just a few short months after we placed our lock on the bridge) – news broke that a part of the bridge railing collapsed into the river below. Although no one was hurt (and our love lock still stood!), this raised a huge red flag to the dangers of this romantic custom.
Although the tradition in Paris is coming to an end, the world-wide trend is showing no sign of slowing down.