It was the nineteenth century author Willa Cather who said, where there is great love, there are always miracles. While most people would use this quote in their daily lives and relationships, the meaning behind this quote is manifesting itself in one famous structure in France that is proving that miracles exist in the presence of great love. That structure is the now famous Locks of Love bridge located at the Pont des Arts in Paris. The Huffington Post has reported on June 9 that this bridge crumbled under the pressure of too much love on Sunday afternoon, forcing an evacuation at the chic Paris tourist locale. ABC News was happy to report on June 10 that the bridge has been reopened, and the miracle of great love can continue at the Pont des Arts Locks of Love bridge until officials can find a more permanent solution to the structural issue.
It was between the years of 1802 and 1804 when Napoleon Bonaparte reigned over France and a structure was required for pedestrians crossing the River Seine. This structure would be designed by engineers Jacques Dillon and Louis Alexandre de Cessart and would become what is known today as the first metal bridge of France, the Pont des Arts bridge.
This bridge today is home to thousands of locks from all over the world where lovers have come to leave a lock symbolizing their "locked in commitment" to each other, and then throwing the key in the River Seine as a gesture of the kind of love that produces miracles.
But this tradition in France has not been in place since the early days of the bridge in 1802. By 1976, the Ponts et Chaussees, the Inspector of Bridges and Causeways, noted that the bridge was structurally deficient after experiencing some damage caused by both World War I and World War II. In 1977 the bridge was closed, by 1979 a 60 metre barge had smashed into it, and the bridge was fully restored by 1984 according to the original plans.
The original Ponts des Arts had 9 arches, whereas today's has seven. Then Mayor of Paris, Jacques Chirac inaugurated the bridge and it became a favored France hotspot for artists, picnic goers, and lovers from all over the world.
But it was only recently where the locks of love tradition began in this chic Paris locale. The first love lock is unknown in origin, but is reportedly only a few years old. Since that first lock, literally thousands of couples have come from all over the world to leave their own lock of love as an integral part of their love story. The Huffington Post reports that the entire bridge which is 155 metres long is "completely covered in locks".
It has become such a heavy weighted tourist tradition, that the bridge is currently buckling under the pressure of so much love. On June 9, that buckling led to the crumbling of one of the railings on the bridge, and the police ordered an evacuation. According to ABC News a section of 2-and-a-half metres of the bridge railing had collapsed under the weight of the great love that was surrounding it. Deputy Mayor in charge of tourism and France cultural affairs, Bruno Julliard told ABC that the two railings had been replaced by some wooden planking. By Monday the Pont des Arts was reopened to the public.
For lovers and die hard romantics, the love locks bridge has become a cultural icon in itself, and not just for France. This romantic tradition has spread across France and across the globe. Locks of love are now starting to appear on the Eiffel Tower, and on bridges in Japan, Germany, and even on the Brooklyn Bridge in New York City. To some, these locks represent great love that produces miracles.
To others, great problems.
Two American women living in France are on a mission to have what they deem to be an eyesore removed. They have been gathering signatures to protest the environmental concerns around the bridge, alleging the rust from the locks is polluting the River Seine, and also that the bridge's security and soundness is being compromised by the weight of this great love.
Bruno Julliard may agree with the structural and concerns of the American women living in Paris, but is likely to seek a more responsible solution that will maintain the prestige and cultural icon status that the Locks of Love bridge represents today. Jullliard suggested to ABC that the tradition of great love is not likely to be removed any time soon, but the recent structural concerns "reinforces our conviction that there is a real necessity to find an alternative."
In the meantime, a Parisian student is determined to ensure that every gesture of great love is recorded for all of eternity on their own blog about the Pont des Arts. The website We Lock Love has been recording and photographing over 50,000 photos of individual locks of love on its website. After leaving their token of great love at the Pont des Arts, users can click on the section of the bridge on the We Lock Love website and see their token of love memorialized for as long as the digital world will allow.
Have you been to the Pont des Arts and left your token of great love? Is there a Locks of Love bridge near you?