There was a time when lovers carved their initials into trees as a testament to their love. We’re all environmentalists now, so that practice has fallen from favour. Romantics are turning to another expression of devotion — lovelocks.
The first time I saw lovelocks clipped to a bridge railing was this past November on a visit to Ottawa. I had set out with great interest in the Corktown Footbridge. This pedestrian bridge spans the Rideau Canal to link Somerset Street East and the University of Ottawa to Somerset Street West in Centretown. Previous to 2006, the canal could only be crossed when the waters froze over in the coldest winter months.
Couples purchase a lock that they can either write or engrave their names on. They connect it to the railing of the bridge, then toss the key into the water as a symbolic act of commitment. To quote one frustrated observer, “If you’re going to add a love lock to the collection, you are supposed to put your names, a date of significance, and throw away the keys. Combination locks DO NOT have keys!”
The lovelock tradition hales from a footbridge in the Serbian town of Vrnjačka Banja. In the early 1900’s, a local schoolmistress named Nada met there with a soldier named Relja. The couple pledged their love for one another, but when World War 1 called him to serve on the Thessaloniki front, Relja’s affections changed. He fell in love with and married a woman from Corfu, Greece where he remained. Nada died, it is said, from a broken heart.
Young couples began visiting the bridge to pledge their devotion to one another by adding a lock to the rail and tossing the key into the river. The practice grew in popularity after publication of “A Prayer for Love”, a poem by Desanka Maksimovic. Lovelocks appeared on bridges in Rome after Federico Moccia’s I Need You described a couple connecting a lock to a lamp post on the Milvian Bridge. The popularity of lovelocks is spreading across North America and Europe. Adding a lovelock to a railing has even become a popular add on to some wedding ceremonies.
Not everyone is keen on the idea
City officials in Ireland, France, and even Canada have removed lovelocks from bridges citing concerns over aesthetics and the risk of damage to the metal railings. Also, the clusters of locks prohibit views of the railings and other architectural details.
In Paris, officials removed padlock laden railings from the Pont des Arts this past summer, for fear that they may separate from the bridge and crush boats passing beneath. Kentucky has taken steps to ban lovelocks from being attached to their bridges.
February 14, 2014 at 7:42 am
Ah. . I remember carving initials on trees in the woods behind my childhood home. I saw the bridge covered with locks in Paris last Sept. and frankly think it looks like a pile of trash.
February 14, 2014 at 8:31 am
During my research, I saw photos of ornate rod iron work covered in locks. Even railings surrounding beautiful fountains were covered. The end result being that the artistry of the structure is obscured. I have a long list of places I’d like to visit. Paris is definitely close to the top. Must have been an amazing trip!
February 14, 2014 at 7:59 am
The one in serbia looks fine to me, one can use that one. It won’t be a great loss even if it falls 😉 😛 I think it’s nice that people believe something…just the building have no meaning. People give meaning to them. If you believe a place becomes a church and if you believe a place becomes sacred love spot 🙂 😀
February 14, 2014 at 8:37 am
Gaurab, I think you might like this video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pt_GbhYabWA. It is definitely inline with your philosophy. So nice to hear from you.
February 14, 2014 at 8:50 am
I really like the video, thanks 🙂
February 25, 2014 at 6:24 pm
I definitely fall on the “no” side to this. I also don’t like public declarations of engagements with dance routines filmed and shared with the world on youtube. 🙂 Call me a curmudgeon. One other place I’ve seen this is on the love walk in the Cinque Terre region of Italy. I didn’t like it there either! 🙂
February 26, 2014 at 9:40 am
In my research, I found some countries are deterring the practice by putting up alternate structures for people to place the locks on — like steel trees. It seems to be working. The esthetics of the architectural feature is preserved and people are able to express themselves also. Italy is on my bucket list of places to visit so I’ll try to remember the Cinque Terre region. sounds enchanting!