French Language Blog

Love Locks on the Pont des Arts Posted by on Jun 11, 2015 in Culture

Have you ever seen padlocks with initials on them attached to a bridge? It’s become a common practice for tourists and locals alike, but these locks are the source of headaches for city workers!

Un « cadena d’amour » est un cadena qu’un couple accroche sur un pont pour symboliser publiquement leur amour (A “love lock” is a padlock that a couple hangs on a bridge to publically symbolize their love).  Carved or painted on the locks, you’ll commonly find the names or the initials of the couple. Some  couples include important dates, such as the day they met or their wedding day. Why a bridge, though? To throw the key into the water below, bien sûr (of course)! Sans la clé (without the key), le cadena cannot be unlocked. It’s a symbol of their undying love <3

How did this tradition start? Well, first let me say that I’m using the word tradition lightly here. The act itself isn’t new, but it’s only become trendy in the past decade or so (in Paris, anyway). Nevertheless, the act has become part of the capital’s modern-day heritage.

There are varying accounts of how les cadenas d’amour started, but the most common tale takes place en Serbie (in Serbia) in the town of Vrnjačka Banja during World War 1. Schoolmistress Nada est tombée amoureuse d’un (fell in love with a) Serbian officer named Relja. Relja went off to war in Greece where he fell in love with a woman from Corfu (he probably used a wicked pick up line). He called off his previous engagement.  Les ruptures (breakups) absolutely suck, and Nada never quite got over it. She died some time later from a broken heart. Women in Vrnjačka Banja, inspired by Nada’s sad story, wanted to protect their own hearts, so they wrote their names and the names of their loved ones on padlocks and attached them to the bridge where Nada and Relja used to meet. Une tradition est née (a tradition was born)!

Well, much to the chagrin of many lovers, the city of Paris (the city of love!) has removed hundreds of thousands of these locks from the famous Pont des Arts. Guess you don’t need a key to take the lock down when you have welding equipment. Last year, a section of the footbridge collapsed. After the accident, plastic panels were placed on the bridge to deter sweethearts from attaching a lock. There was even a campaign to get people to find other ways of expressing themselves. They tried a different method: an online campaign where you can ‘say it with a selfie’: simply take a picture of you and your lover, post it on social media, and use the hashtag #lovewithoutlocks.

That didn’t work. People continued to pile on the locks, so Paris officials had to make a drastic move. All the locks were removed and replaced with decorated plastic panels. Check them out. What do you think?

Not everyone is a big fan of the changes, but others like it. What do you think?


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About the Author: Josh Dougherty

Just your typical francophile. If you have any topics you'd like me to discuss, feel free to let me know!