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Locking for Love in All the Wrong Places

Occasionally we'll notice a Paris phenomenon, like rubbing a statue for good luck, or for fertility, that has blossomed into a full-blown urban legend.

Just a few blocks from us, behind Notre Dame at Pont de L'Archevêché (The Archbishop's Bridge, one of the thirty-seven Paris bridges that span the Seine), another urban legend blooms, to the annoyance of city officials. Lovers who wish to lock in their commitment to undying love (that happens a lot in Paris) snap their initialed and ribbon-festooned bike or travel lock shut onto the bridge's wire mesh fence, and throw the key into the Seine.

, love forever, or at least until city employees arrive with lock snips, as they did last year at the footbridge near the Louvre called Pont des Arts, a few bridges west of Notre Dame. The Paris lock phenomenon started there early in this millenium, and Pont des Arts' reputation as a locus for lovers was apparently enhanced (for some Americans, anyway) in the final episode of the TV series Sex and the City, in February 2004. (Your Paris Play editors somehow missed all episodes of Sex and the City.)

(Incidentally, the love lock phenomenon is not confined to Paris; according to Wikipedia it is worldwide, with reports from cities like Rome, Florence, Cologne, Seoul, Vancouver, Montevideo, Moscow, and from the countries of Serbia--love lock Ground Zero--and Taiwan.)

What annoys city officials is that the lock fetish can get out of hand; witness the angle above, which shows only about half the length (say 34 meters) of the Archbishop's west side. A Paris city hall spokesperson told the British newspaper, The Independent, that the locks "raise problems for the preservation of our architectural heritage."

While it looks to us Aphrodite worshippers like a harmless and even charming tradition, Parisians take their architectural heritage seriously.

So what if the lovers were left alone, and simply ran out of lock room?

Funny you should ask. Here's the east side of Pont de L'Archevêché, where, as in a Hollywood horror movie, the sequel is taking shape, ever so slowly, lock by lock, by lock, by lock, by....

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Reader Comments (26)

There is something sweet about the ribbons and festooning of the locks that gives this trend an appeal to me. Certainly it beautifies the inexpensive (cheap) chain link fence! Sadly the ribbons will fade as the rains come as will perhaps many of the romances which are just in their first bloom. Ahhh but the declaration itself is a testament to the ideals of Love. It gives me faith in humanity… at least "young love"..

Though keeping love and ideals alive takes constant renewal and nurturing to keep the flame burning, so too with these locks; when these testaments are cut away more will take their place. The real key is Love itself. Hopefully that will never be thrown away.

<;-) Joanne

Wednesday, October 12, 2011 at 21:28 | Unregistered CommenterJoanne Warfield

Hi Joanne,

We agree with you: the festive ribbons and locks improve the look of the chain link fence, give it added sculptural shape and color.

Wouldn't it be fascinating to hear all the stories of these lovers, how they turned out?

And yes, love itself endures!

Thank you for your thoughts on love, you who know so much about it.


Kaaren & Richard

Friday, October 14, 2011 at 19:05 | Unregistered CommenterKaaren & Richard

We saw a wonder 'love lock' fence in Prague when we visited in May, 2010.. I think it's great. It was very near the John Lennon Wall - love all around!

Friday, June 15, 2012 at 6:33 | Unregistered CommenterJudi Boeye Miller

Hi Judi,

I'd love to see those locks in Prague, and I didn't know about the John Lennon wall. I think we're due for a visit to Prague.

Thank you!

Kaaren & Richard

Monday, June 18, 2012 at 5:21 | Unregistered CommenterKaaren & Richard

I'm torn! I want everyone what I did when Rob produced the engraved lock, but more importantly, when he gave me the key and I was charmed and started to put it carefully in my purse...but lo! He gently guided me to watch the ever so romantic gesture of throwing the key into the seine! Swooon!! So, why should I be the last woman to have been blessed with this experience? If it were the Venice Canals, I'd vote for LOVE POLLUTION!!! But this is YOUR city, not mine...

Friday, March 28, 2014 at 2:39 | Unregistered CommenterPamela Hogan

I happen to agree with you, Pamela. People who want pristine views should live in the country. I love this ritual, the rich human stories.

Long live your love!


Kaaren & Richard

Sunday, April 13, 2014 at 2:03 | Registered CommenterKaaren Kitchell & Richard Beban

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