Wednesday, February 2, 2011


As Valentine's Day approaches, locksmiths in Paris may see an increase in business as lovers of all ages seek out the perfect Love Lock. What better day than February 14 for lovers to attach their locks, a symbol of their eternal love, to the bridges of Paris? The preferred bridges are the Pont des Arts, which crosses the Seine near the Louvre, and the Pont de l'Archevêché behind Notre Dame. An endearing romantic custom or an eyesore, as I see it, love locks now cover bridges all over the world.

We first saw them a few years ago in Florence on the Ponte Vecchio, a romantic bridge that needs no embellishment. There, the railing around the bust of Benvenuto Cellini  - who, as luck or love would have it, died on February 14, 1571 in Florence - practically sagged under the weight of the locks. Florence has since banned the practice, but love, accustomed to obstacles, continues to win out and the locks seem as numerous as ever.

On a recent Sunday, we watched as a couple of a certain age glided on roller blades on to the Pont des Arts. Colorfully dressed and sporting bracelets of small bells, they jingled their way to the middle of the bridge, bent down and attached a small brass lock. Then they stood up, kissed and together threw the key to the lock into the Seine. Thus, their love is sealed forever - unless they part before then or until the City of Paris comes and removes the lock. 

The history of love locks is somewhat obscure. Everything from a Pagan custom to an Italian novel have been put forth as the origin of the practice. Whatever the truth, cities all over the world are debating about leaving or removing the locks. Paris, the City of Love, but also the city of order and beauty, is in a particularly difficult  position. 

In the beginning of May 2010, Paris City Hall announced that although they found the phenomenon of love locks "pleasant, likable and spontaneous," eventually the locks would have to be removed to preserve national heritage. Then on May 13, pedestrians crossing the Pont des Arts found that all but a handful of the approximately 2,000 locks adorning the bridge had been removed sometime during the night. According to City officials, "the municipal services did not intervene."* The mystery of who was responsible for removing the locks has not been solved, but no matter, the removal just provided a clean slate for a whole new group of lovers. Once again, locks on the bridge are declaring the eternal love of couples such as Laurent and Agnes, Meredith and Drew, and Shelly and Franz.

City Hall has not called me yet, but I have a great idea. Paris should commission a large, hollow, translucent statue - a copy of Venus de Milo or if that offends artistic sensibilities, a huge lock, a heart, a key? The French love debate so a public discussion on the matter could be launched. Then the City could convene a commission of artists and intellectuals to study the matter and select the winning form. If I'm asked to be on the committee, I'll suggest that the Hommage à l'amour, as I'm calling it, be placed in the sculpture garden on the Quai St. Bernard with its unparalleled view of Notre Dame. 

When hopeful lovers placed their love locks among thousands of others on a Paris bridge, they would know that at some point, the city would remove them, recycle some and put a randomly-chosen few into the statue.  I think it would meet with general acceptance because even the most ardent lover knows that you need to be lucky to survive in love.

To see more photos, click here.

A bientôt,

Photos by Geraldine Calisti Kaylor
*The Telegraph
  May 13, 2010


  1. Bravo et encore bravo !!! As a convinced seasonned Parisian ... I love your stories !!! Am surprised that you havn't asked yet for a french passport ...

  2. I saw the locks on the Pont de l'Archevêché a few weeks ago and wondered what was happening, having never seen the practice before. Thanks for illuminating! What a sweet sentiment and I didn't think it detracted at all from the beauty of the bridge or the area.

  3. Amazing! I've never seen those! I love this notion! So uplifting and life-affirming. Charming photo of you two, as well. Thanks for a big smile on my face this morning, Geraldine.

  4. Whoa – a love picture but alas no locks except for on the head. Always a joy to read your oyster.

  5. I like your idea and the fractional permanence it provides, maybe all any lover can count on

  6. What a great story. I never heard of that before. I just love your blog. I always learn something and your pictures are awesome.

  7. Fascinating. I had never seen or even heard of "love locks" before. I like your re-cycling solution.

  8. just found your blog through adrian leeds' website. i enjoyed it and want to keep checking it out. jeanne simonoff, santa fe, new mexico


Thanks for your comments.