Padlocks on the Pont des Arts in Paris

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The view from the Pont des Arts footbridge is one of best in Paris, according to Relationnel. Difficult to beat, I must admit. If you stand in the middle and look towards the Left Bank, you have the Institut de France containing the Académie Française with its famous dome in front of you. Behind you, on the Right Bank, is the Louvre. On your left, looking downstream, Ile de la Cité with Notre Dame and  Sainte Chapelle. On your right, the Eiffel Tower which shimmers and shines for 10 minutes every hour, at its best at midnight on 31st December where we join with what seems like half of Paris, champagne bottle and glasses in hand, to welcome in the New Year.

But what I like best are the cadenas. The railings on either side of the bridge are being gradually covered with padlocks of every shape and size. Although the collection was started a few years ago, most are recent. At the beginning of May last year, there were about 1,600, but only about forty of the most resistant were left on 16th May. No one knows who took them off. Neither the town hall nor the police knows anything about it. I didn’t count them but both sides of each railing are now covered in new padlocks!

There are big ones and little ones, old ones and new, square locks and round ones, key locks, combination locks and even bike locks. On some, the inscriptions are written with felt pens, others are beautifully engraved. The names come from everywhere – Ana  y Pablo , Lus & Carlos, Monset & Leila, Sacha et Serge, Ruth and Michael, Pedro & McJosé, Fio & Angel, Eliot and Madeleine, Princess Titti & Magic Benoo, Christ &  Natasha, poopy pants & becky,  J. Vilorio & L. Villaverde, the list goes on.  Some of the messages are mundane – a heart or “loves” between the names, “1 an de bonheur” (a year of happiness), “forever” or “Thirty years of wedded bliss”; some are inventive : “Mikaël & Vanessa : une évidence” (perfectly obvious); while others are hopeful of things to come: “Christina Joe Maybe One day cos”.

The  enormous “50 mm sécurité” and “Triangle 75 mm” padlocks left me somewhat bemused.  They hardly seem appropriate for a long-term relationship. There’s a little yellow star (on a bridge in Paris?), a bottle opener with “I love Paris”, lots of big red hearts and some smaller ones, a lovely embossed padlock that looks as though it came off a trunk, and one with 3 little coloured hearts glued on. Some are handpainted miniatures and I love the one with the two flags, one red and yellow and the other blue and white with a star on one side, even though I can’t identify the countries. There’s even a plaque with Mona Lisa on it. The most elaborate has three little buttons sewn on. Sometimes, there are two padlocks together, with a name on each. Very economical. Nothing like allowing for a change of partner!  

So where do they all come from? Some are obviously prepared in advance while others are more spontaneous. I noticed that some of the nearby bouquinistes are selling the plainer variety. The basement of the BHV department store on the corner of Place de l’Hôtel de Ville further along the right bank no doubt has quite a selection, but I don’t know where you get those heart-shaped ones. They seem made for meaure! Likes like a thriving business in any case.

Has anyone seen padlocks in other places on their travels?

For more information on the subject in French: http://tempsreel.nouvelobs.com/societe/20100512.OBS3875/qui-a-fracture-les-cadenas-d-amour-du-pont-des-arts.html

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9 Responses to Padlocks on the Pont des Arts in Paris

  1. Townsvillean says:

    Must have been some kind of ninja to remove over 1500 padlocks without anyone noticing! The flags look like Spain and Cuba to me. I’m working on mine now (in anticipation of visiting Paris again in the future)

    • Chris says:

      There’s a metal bridge, Mary’s bridge, in Bavaria, behind the castle of Neuschwanstein, 90 m above the Pollat falls, with padlocks all over. These are fixed there by couples swearing faithfulness after their wedding.

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