There’s this bridge in Rome — not for cars, just for people — where lovers have been chaining padlocks, first to a lamppost, then to other posts, and, then, “locked together,” throw the key into the Tiber River below.
The idea— They are locked together; they will never leave each other.
This is not an old tradition. It began just a year or so ago, when novelist and screenwriter Frederico Moccia wrote about a character who invented the legend of lovers tying a padlock to a lamppost on the bridge and throwing away the key. That was in a book called, in English, “I Want You.”
So what did the books’ readers do? They bought padlocks, clamped them to the lampposts — and threw the keys away, that is, into the river.
Trouble was, thousands of padlocks wound up on lampposts and the bases of the lampposts crumbled and the lamps fell down.
So what was done about it— Rome being a city for lovers, the city put up a new posts — not lampposts, just posts — to make more room for more padlocks and more lovers on the bridge, the Ponte Milvio.
Now, you know that the “throw away the key” tradition isn’t very old, but what about the bridge with all the padlocks— How old is the Ponte Milvio?
We don’t know exactly when it was built, but history tells us that a bridge in that place was referred to in 207 BC. History also tells us that the first Ponte Milvio, like other Roman bridges, was built of wood — and that it was rebuilt in stone in 109 BC.
Two competing “Emperors” of Rome fought a battle there in 312 AD. The winner, Constantine, legalized Christianity but decided to move the capitol of the Roman Empire to another city, one named after him, Constantinople.
But Rome survived and so did the Ponte Milvio. Of course it was often damaged — in 538 and 1335 — and had to be rebuilt. Garibaldi and his men, fighting for an independent Italy, did serious damage to the bridge in 1849, trying to prevent the French from crossing the bridge. Ponte Milvio was reconstructed.
The Ponte Milvio continued to be used, by people, horses, wagons, and then automobiles and other vehicular traffic, until the bridge was declared “A National Treasure” in 1956, and thereafter could be used only by pedestrians.
In the same year that Ponte Melvio became “A National Treasure” in Italy, in the U.S., Congress passed the Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1956.
That Act created the Interstate Highway System.
The I-35 West Bridge over the Mississippi, part of that Interstate System, was completed in 1967. Part of that bridge collapsed on Wednesday, August 1, 2007. The I-35 West Bridge was 40 years old.
Ponte Melvio is more than 2,000 years old and still in use.
The wars fought over and upon the Ponte Melvio have claimed many more lives than I-35 West did. Still, the padlocks on Ponte Melvio may indicate that there’s hope for the future in Rome. And Minneapolis and others aren’t keeping up.
Chelle Delaney is associate publisher of the Quay County Sun. She can be reached by calling 461-1952 or by emailing: email@example.com