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. Since the 2000s, love locks have proliferated at an increasing number of locations worldwide. They are often treated by municipal authorities as litter or vandalism, and there is some cost to their removal.
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 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. However, in Rome, the ritual of affixing love padlocks to the bridge Ponte Milvio can be attributed to the 2006 book I Want You by Italian author Federico Moccia, who made a film adaptation in 2007.
Notable locations and controversies
In several countries the local authorities and owners of various landmarks have expressed concern and tried to have the padlocks removed:
- 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. Many tourists mistakenly believe this is a longstanding Parisian tradition, not realizing the practice only migrated into Paris in late 2008 after affecting cities in Italy and Asia. It is also wrongly believed that this is a French tradition, when in fact most French find the idea of "locking" love to be ridiculous. In January 2014, a campaign and petition, No Love Locks™, was founded by two Americans living in Paris in an effort to save the city's historic bridges and monuments from the overwhelming number of locks. The international media attention the campaign received has been credited with the actions begun in the summer and fall of 2014, when the city began seeking alternatives to love locks and asking the public to stop placing locks on Parisian bridges and monuments. On 9 June 2014, the weight of the padlocks on the Pont Des Arts bridge were blamed for the collapse of part of the parapet. The city began an experiment in September 2014 on the Pont des Arts, replacing three panels with a special type of glass that would prevent locks from being attached.
- In New York City a group of locksport enthusiasts organized to remove locks from the Brooklyn Bridge in 2013
- Deutsche Bahn threatened to have the locks removed from the Hohenzollern Bridge in Cologne. Deutsche Bahn is the bridge's operator, but in the end relented in the face of public opposition.
- In Canada, love padlocks appearing along the Wild Pacific Trail in Ucluelet on Vancouver Island, have caused controversy as some regard them as a distraction from nature. Love padlocks were removed from the Humber Bridge due to concerns over aesthetics and structural concerns if the Bridge were to become a love padlock destination. The Corktown Footbridge has also attracted love locks.
- 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.
- In Dublin, Ireland, padlocks on the Ha'penny Bridge, River Liffey were taken down by Dublin City Council in early 2012. The padlocks could damage the protected structure, the Council has said. "This seems to have only started happening in the last few months and we're asking people not to do it," said a spokesperson for Dublin City Council. Some locks have also been removed from the Millennium Bridge, close to the Ha'penny Bridge in the city centre, the Council said. The padlocks have been criticised for being an eyesore on public structures. They can also cause further damage when they have to be removed, the Council said. The spokesperson confirmed that the Council will continue to remove the locks from any bridges they appear on in the city centre.
- In Bamberg, Germany, after inviting the public to attach love locks on the Kettenbrücke in 2011, officials threatened to remove them during the same year due to rust. After public outrage and several township meetings, the locks remain.
- In Algiers love padlocks were added in September 2013 to a bridge that was previously known as the "suicide bridge" in Telemly a district of Algiers, but after a video made by an imam saying that love padlocks are forbidden in Islam, some youths brought tools to remove them by night a few days later.
- In Las Vegas, a 1/2 scale model of the Eiffel Tower located at the Paris Hotel the famed Vegas Strip has inspired visitors to place lovers' locks on the walkway out to the elevators to the top of the tower. Visitors are told not to throw the key from the tower and locks sold in the lobby are opened and provided for a fee without a key to prevent this practice.
- In Toowoomba, Australia, love locks have been appearing at Picnic Point, a heritage-listed tourist attraction featuring a park and lookout at the top of the Great Dividing Range.
Legends and superstitions
On some locations the padlocks have been given almost legendary or superstitious character:
- In Fengyuan, Taiwan, love padlocks affixed to an overpass at the city's train station are often affixed in pairs. These locks are known as "wish locks" and local legend holds that the magnetic field generated by trains passing underneath will cause energy to accumulate in the locks and fulfill the wishes.
- On a fountain in Montevideo in Uruguay, a plaque is affixed to the front of the fountain that provides an explanation in both English and Spanish. The English version of the text reads, "The legend of this young fountain tells us that if a lock with the initials of two people in love is placed in it, they will return together to the fountain and their love will be forever locked."
- Enulescu, Dana (1 March 2007). "Rome mayor in 'love padlock' row". BBC. Retrieved 2011-08-19.
- Rubin, Alissa (27 April 2014). "On Bridges in Paris, Clanking With Love". New York Times. Retrieved 29 April 2014.
- "Most ljubavi". Vrnjacka Banja (in Serbian). www.vrnjackabanja.biz. Retrieved 6 October 2010.
- Ogrizović, Slobodan (22 April 2009). "Vrnjačka banja, najveće lečilište u Srbiji". B92 (in Serbian). Retrieved 2010-10-06.
- Long, Louisa (6 June 2011). "Love-locks return to the bridges of Paris". The Independent. Retrieved 2011-08-19.
- Ian Fischer (6 August 2007), In Rome, a New Ritual on an Old Bridge, New York Times, retrieved 2010-08-09
- Demetri, Justin (2008). "The Bridge of Love in Rome". Life in Italy .com. Retrieved 2011-08-19.
- « Où sont passés les cadenas du pont des Arts », Les Nuages Bleus, 20 July 2010.
- Urquhart, Wendy (9 June 2014). "'Lovelocks' collapse Paris bridge rail". BBC News (BBC). Retrieved 14 July 2014.
- Stolarz, Sarah (2 September 2009). "Cologne Gets a Lock on Love". Deutsche Welle. Retrieved 2011-08-19.
- Aboelsaud, Yasmin (6 January 2011). "Accidental locks of love on Wild Pacific Trail". Westerly News. Retrieved 2011-08-19.
- Hempstead, Doug (February 13, 2013). "Inscribing couple's names on locks big deal on Ottawa's Corkstown Bridge". Ottawa Sun (Canoe Sun Media). Retrieved 14 July 2014.
- "Florence tries to stamp out locks of love". Italy Mag. 1 May 2006. Retrieved 2011-08-19.
- "Where's the love? Council removes 'love padlocks' from Dublin's Ha'penny Bridge". thejournal.ie. 13 January 2012. Retrieved 2012-09-24.
- Alger : le pont “d’amour” redevient le pont des “suicidés” Algérie focus.2013-09-10
- Missous, Naila (September 24, 2013). "Algeria's controversial bridge of love". Your Middle East (Your Middle East). Retrieved 14 July 2014.
- "Romantics secure their love locks". Toowoomba Chronicle. 2 November 2013. Retrieved 14 November 2014.
- Chang Jui-chen (2009). "'Wish lock' phenomenon attracts youth to Fengyuan". Taipei Times. Retrieved 2009-12-06.
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