Hearts Break as Paris Says Goodbye to Iconic Love Locks

Love locks. Photo: Looptt.

It’s a bad day to be a lover. Paris city officials have begun the process of removing the hundreds of thousands of padlocks—known as “love locks”—that began to spring up on the sides of the Pont des Arts bridge half a decade ago.

It’s become a tradition for tourists and locals alike to fasten a padlocked with their initials and those of a lover to the bridge as a symbol of eternity, tossing the key into the river Seine below. Unfortunately, while many of the relationships inevitably dissolve, the locks do not, and they have weighed heavily on the bridge.

Despite the relative flimsiness of the locks (most were purchased for no more than a few dollars), collectively, they weighed an estimated 45 tons (90,000 pounds). There was constant concern that the bridge’s panels, with their delicate ironwork, would give way under the weight of the locks and come crashing down on the boats beneath. Last year, part of the rail did collapse, though luckily no one was injured.

Removing the panels that contain the locks. Photo: Getty.

Removing the panels that contain the locks.
Photo: Getty.

On Monday, city workers equipped with a crane and wheeled dollies began tearing down the wire panels bearing the love locks. The city will temporarily replace the wire siding with panels designed by local street artists. Those panels will eventually be replaced with Plexiglas that will allow pedestrians to once again gaze upon the Seine, a view that was blocked by the wall of locks.

When the locks first began to appear five years ago, they were initially welcomed. “[They] could be seen as rather pleasant,” Bruno Julliard, the deputy mayor of culture, told the New York Times. “[B]ut as years passed they took on such proportions that they were no longer acceptable for the cultural heritage.”

Photo: Remy de la Mauviniere/AP.

Photo: Remy de la Mauviniere/AP.

The locks that were affixed to the panels are to be kept in a city warehouse until officials decide their fate. They might be melted down, or they may be donated to charity. There is no plan at the moment to retrieve the thousands of keys languishing at the bottom of the Seine.

Julliard still wants tourists to see Paris as “the capital of love, the capital of romance.” That is, as long as they find other, less destructive, ways to express their passion.

BBC has a video of city workers removing and wheeling away the lock-laden panels—just in case reading about it isn’t bummer enough.

Follow Artnet News on Facebook:

Want to stay ahead of the art world? Subscribe to our newsletter to get the breaking news, eye-opening interviews, and incisive critical takes that drive the conversation forward.