‘Tis Better to Have Loved and Lost . . .
The French are turning their back on love! Oh, say it isn’t so! Well, it really isn’t so. But as you may have heard, last Monday, the city of Paris began removing the approximately 700,000 padlocks clinging to the Pont des Arts. As a symbol of their undying affection for each other, couples have been adding their “love locks” (not to be confused with “Locks of Love“) to the fencing of the pedestrian bridge, throwing the keys into the Seine river below.
The tradition started in Rome after the 2006 publication of Frederico Moccia’s best-selling novel I Want You, and the following movie adaptation, in which a young couple proclaim their love by fastening a padlock to the Milvian Bridge.
From there the practice has become something of a global phenomenon, with businesses springing up to cash in. For example, there are Lovelocks and MakeLoveLocks, which sell their own lines of locks and post maps showing sites around the globe for locking up love.
Looks as if they’ll need to remove at least one of those map markers, as Paris has decided that enough is enough. Actually, it’s too much, as sections of the Pont des Arts railing have begun to collapse under the padlocks’ 100-ton weight.
If US expats Lisa Anselmo and Lisa Taylor Huff have their way, Paris will soon be love-lock free. In January of last year, the two started No Love Locks with the slogan “Free your love. Save our bridges.” They’ve also started a petition asking the mayor of their city to ban the locks once and for all.
Make Peace, Not Love
Where, oh where, then, will young lovers and tourists go to take selfies in a Paris sans love locks?
Well, the French capital does have another photo-worthy site. You might have heard of it, though probably not. It’s one of France’s best-kept secrets, but it may just turn the City of Love into the City of . . . Peace.
It’s the Mur de la Paix, or the Wall for Peace, situated on the Champ de Mars, in front of the École Militaire. Created by artist Clara halter and architect Jean-Michel Wilmotte, the wall was installed in 2000 to celebrate the arrival of the new millennium.
The structure is made of metal and glass panels and 20-foot-tall stainless-steel columns, all displaying the word peace in 32 languages. Inspired by the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem, the Wall for Peace contains slits so that visitors can leave messages in them. And virtual guests can leave their messages at the wall’s site to be displayed on monitors and online.
When it was built, the monument was supposed to be temporary, lasting only a few months. Some of the locals regret that its removal hasn’t happened, and a few are very vocal about it. In 2011, Rachida Dati, mayor of the area surrounding the Wall for Peace, was found guilty of defamation after accusing the wall’s creators of lying to keep their work in place. The wall has also been the target of vandalism. And yet, 15 years after its construction, it still stands.
If you look from the right vantage point, you’ll see that the Wall of Peace frames a nice view of a rather tall radio and TV antenna at the end of the Champ de Mars, opposite the École Militaire. It also was built as a temporary structure, to commemorate the 100-year anniversary of the French Revolution at the 1889 World’s Fair. Originally meant to stay for only 20 years, it was saved from the scrap pile when it’s creator realized how useful it could be for broadcasting. The tower’s still there, and if you’d like to get a glimpse of it, just go to the Wall for Peace and look southeast.
Ahh, Paris. What a fickle city. That which is meant to be forever is taken away. And that which is meant to be temporary lives on. C’est la vie.
C’est l’amour. C’est la paix.
(Emanuella Grinberg, “Paris Ends Relationship with ‘Love Locks,'” CNN, May 31, 2015; Angela Diffley, “Rachida Dati Libelled Peace Wall Couple, Court Rules,” RFI, November 22, 2011)
[photos: “Paris: Love Lock Bridge,” by Abi, used under a Creative Commons license; “Paris—Champ de Mars: Le Mur pour La Paix and Eiffel Tower,” by Wally Goetz, used under a Creative Commons license; “The Tower with Letters for Peace,” by Vincent Brassinne, used under a Creative Commons license]