“True love stories never have endings.” ~ Richard Bach
Locks are symbolic for many reasons. They are solid, all but impermeable without a key. You have to make a concerted effort to break a lock, and even then it isn’t easy unless you have something like bolt cutters. And who walks around with those?
Because of their impenetrable nature, they not only represent beginnings and endings, but are also symbolic of love. As such, couples will attach a lock to show their devotion and love to each other, many times tossing the key away after. These have become knows as “Love Locks.”
There is no set date of when love locks originated, but many historians believe they first appeared in ancient China. Centuries later the tradition was reignited by an old wivestale in Serbia. A woman fell in love with a soldier, but when he went over seas to Greece he fell in love and left her broken hearted. Women decided to attach locks to the bridge the couple use to meet at with the initials of their beloved in hopes that it would “Lock” them in.
In the early 2000’s the ritual of attaching locks to bridges had a resurgence in Europe and in 2006 when the book (later turned into a movie) I want you by Italian author Federico Moccia, came out the trend took off, spreading around the world.
Many bridges and fences around the world have become adorned with love locks. They have even been turned into art exhibits.
Passerelle des Arts
I first stumbled upon love locks when I was in France several years ago. My aunt took me to the Passerelle des Arts, a pedestrian bridge that links the Louvre and the Institut de France. Built in 1802, it crosses over the Seine serving as a suspended park with benches and trees planted along it. It hosts many art exhibits and is a well known spot for photographers.
It’s most famous exhibit is not really an exhibit, but has become one of the most prominent symbols of love-locks. Beginning in only 2008, people would attach locks to the metal grates along the bridge before throwing the keys into the Siene in a declaration of love.
I was absolutely in awe when I first saw it. It was absolutely covered in the symbols of passion and devotion. Not a single inch of space was free. People had even begun to attach locks to other locks starting a train of sorts. Some were engraved, others had tape attached with initials inscribed, and still others had colorful ribbons. Like with all art, it invoked emotion and that of the most poignant and arduous of them all: Love.
There has been controversy with the love locks, some feel that it is littering others feel that it is not only littering but also a form of vandalism, destroying public property.
In 2016 officials began removing locks from Brooklyn Bridge, which had gathered its own vast love lock collection. While they were serious about the removal, they did try to soften the blow with lighthearted signs in an ode to New York Culture. Warning those who did it to eat lox and not put up locks or else they would be fined. While it has deterred people, there are always those daredevils who ignore the warning or perhaps are proving that they will in fact do anything for love.
The Passerelle des Arts has also removed locks, and as well as started implementing glass panels due to the bridge buckling under the weight. It is said that an estimated million locks are attached to the bridge. Officials have urged people to find new ways to express their love by taking pictures instead of placing locks in their “#Lovewithoutlocks” campaign. But really what is a selfie compared to a love lock?
Pier 1 In Brooklyn
While (most of) the locks have been removed from the Brooklyn Bridge, couples have migrated just across it to Pier One in Brooklyn Bridge Park.
I had visited last February and a few were scattered around. On my most recent visit, hundreds more had been added once more displaying love in Brooklyn.
While I understand where officials are coming from as they worry about the integrity of infrastructures like bridges, their is something that tugs at the heart strings and makes even the most jaded of us a romantic. In a world where love can seem so diminished and fleeting, why not let it shine?
There is something utterly beautiful and unique when seeing the locks. Not only are they different, but the stories behind them are so heartfelt and personal. Regardless of how silly it might seem, it is an act that has love perpetuating it and THAT is so important. We ALL need love.
Have you seen Love Locks? Have you ever done one yourself? What do you think of the gesture?