The Pont des Arts or Passerelle des Arts is a pedestrian bridge in Paris which crosses the River Seine. It links the Institut de France and the central square (cour carrée) of the Palais du Louvre, (which had been termed the “Palais des Arts” under the First French Empire). In 1802, engineers Louis-Alexandre de Cessart and Jacques Dillon started to work on the Pont des Arts, a nine-arch pedestrian bridge that they envisioned as a suspended garden with trees, flowers and benches.
At one end of the bridge is the magnificent Louvre, the Palais des Arts during the Napoleonic Empire; at the other, the Institut de France, dedicated to preserving Hugo (among others).
The Pont des Arts is a favourite of Parisians and tourists. The bridge has sometimes served as a place for art exhibitions, and is today a studio en plein air for painters, artists and photographers who are drawn to its unique point of view.
The Pont des Arts is also frequently a spot for picnics during the summer and also a rendezvous point for lovers. The love padlocks have been a phenomenon in cities as varied as Belgium to Japan. For those of you who haven’t heard of them, here’s the story.
A couple writes their names on a padlock and locks it onto one of the bridges. They then throw the key into the Seine River as a symbol of their undying love A love lock or love padlock is a padlock which sweethearts lock to a bridge, fence, gate, or similar public fixture to symbolize their love. Typically the sweethearts’ names or initials are inscribed on the padlock, and its key is thrown away to symbolise unbreakable love.
The history of love padlocks dates back at least 100 years to a melancholy Serbian tale of World War I, with an attribution for the bridge Most Ljubavi (lit. the Bridge of Love) in spa town of Vrnjačka Banja. A local schoolmistress named Nada, who was from Vrnjačka Banja, fell in love with a Serbian officer named Relja. After they committed to each other Relja went to war in Greece where he fell in love with a local woman from Corfu. As a consequence, Relja and Nada broke off their engagement. Nada never recovered from that devastating blow, and after some time she died due to heartbreak from her unfortunate love. As young women from Vrnjačka Banja wanted to protect their own loves, they started writing down their names, with the names of their loved ones, on padlocks and affixing them to the railings of the bridge where Nada and Relja used to meet. In the rest of Europe, love padlocks started appearing in the early 2000s.
The reasons love padlocks started to appear vary between locations and in many instances are unclear.
In May 2010 the city of Paris expressed concern over the growing number of love-locks on the Pont des Arts, Passerelle Léopold-Sédar-Senghor and the Pont de l’Archevêché bridges, stating: “they raise problems for the preservation of our architectural heritage”. The lovelocks of the Pont des Arts mysteriously disappeared during the night of 11 May 2010, but the Administration denied responsibility, until it was discovered that they had been removed by a student of the nearby École des Beaux-Arts to make a sculpture. Love locks immediately began appearing on the Pont de l’Archevêché and have since spread to at least 11 Seine bridges, the Canal Saint Martin footbridges, and to parks and monuments all over the city.
In Florence, Italy, 5,500 love padlocks affixed to the Ponte Vecchio bridge were removed by the city council. According to the council the padlocks both pose an aesthetic problem as well as scratch and dent the metal of the bridge.
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