Paris Locks

Napoleon Bonaparte built the locks of the canal St-Martin in 1802 to bring goods and fresh water from the Canal de l'Ourcq to Paris where it connected to the Seine. 200 years later, locks of a different sort of lock began appearing in Paris in a gesture ironically taken from an Italian movie, where couples placed locks on a Roman bridge and threw the keys into the river. The Pont des Arts, a pedestrian walkway over the Seine dating back to 1801, soon had its side panels covered with locks.

Locks on the canal St-Martin Locks on the Pont des Arts


Parisians were not overly enthused when the locks on the bridge first appeared. They felt that lovers did not need to be chained together. Most of the locks have been attached by visitors to Paris. In 2014, a panel like the one shown above collapsed under its own weight and fell into the Seine. The city began removing the locks on a regular basis but they were replaced by more locks in a matter of days. Sellers of locks began appearing on all of Paris' pedestrian bridges, including those on the canal St-Martin.

The load of the million locks on the Pont des Arts was estimated at 50 tons! Something had to be done. In June, 2015, all of the metal grillwork panels, locks and all were removed and replaced with solid panels depicting street art.


New panels on the Pont des Arts


Nobody is sure what will happen to the lock covered metal panels. Ideas include auctioning them to collectors, or installing them on dry land in a park.

One other issue is the millions of keys at the bottom of the Seine!

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