The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

The weight of love collapses part of Paris bridge

There is officially a little too much love on this particular Parisian bridge.

Part eyesore, part symbol of everlasting affection, the 700,000 metal "love locks" emblazoned with the initials of visiting lovers have been attached to the Pont des Arts footbridge that crosses the Seine River in Paris for seven years or so. Now part of the bridge has collapsed under the weight of the locks.

A five-foot span of the bridge's metal mesh railing came down Sunday night, according to Britain's Telegraph newspaper. (Luckily for the boaters below, it collapsed onto the bridge, not into the water.)

As aptly Parisian as the phenomenon may seem, "love locks" may have been an Italian import — and a recent one at that.

Some trace its rise in popularity to two Italian novels, published in 1992 and 2006: Federico Moccia's "Tre Metri Sopra il Cielo" ("Three Metres Above the Sky") and "Ho Voglia di Te" ("I Desire You"), according to the BBC.

It spread to Russia, and Paris's Pont des Arts and other bridges, as well as far-flung destinations such as China, Hungary, Germany and Guam.

Seemingly everywhere the craze goes, it brings trouble, or at least some debate.

In 2007, the mayors of Florence and Rome instituted fines as a deterrent against fastening padlocks to their city bridges.

Tourists have taken to the Eiffel Tower, the Brooklyn Bridge, and London's bridges and fences.

In Paris, the locks spawned a protest campaign called "No Love Locks," petitioning tourists to stop defacing the city's otherwise unadorned bridges with unsightly locks.

"I know it seems romantic, a lock signifying your everlasting love fastened forever to a bridge in the City of Light — and sure, a few years ago it was quite a novel and charming idea. But now, dear tourists, much like the Real Housewives series, it’s just too much of a good thing," wrote Lisa Anselmo, one of the two friends living in Paris who started the "No Love Locks" petition. "The delicate Pont des Arts has become a freakish glut of indistinguishable metal lumps, and worse, is now in mortal danger."

Pledging to take action, Paris's new mayor, Anne Hidalgo, appointed the city's culture secretary, Bruno Julliard, to come up with a plan for handling the city's lock problem in a way that's true to Paris's commitment to love.

"But the issue is not a simple one, as both Parisians and tourists are very attached to this symbolic act," Julliard told Britain's Guardian newspaper this month. "Paris is the capital of love and is meant to stay as such."

It's unclear whether the bridge is actually in "mortal danger" as the petitioners allege. But the collapsed fence was enough to close the bridge for a day. It is expected to reopen tomorrow.